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Barbara Bailey, founder of Broadway’s much-loved Bailey/Coy Books, remembered

(Image via Facebook)

Barbara Bailey, a Broadway business and property owner who created one of the city’s most loved book shops, has died. She was 74.

Friends have posted tributes to Bailey on social media. There has not yet been an announcement regarding services.

Mayor Jenny Durkan noted Bailey’s place in the formation of the Capitol Hill we know today. “Her mark on Seattle cannot be overstated; Capitol Hill would not be Capitol Hill, were it not for Barbara,” Durkan writes. “She went to school there, lived there, built a business there and cheered the neighborhood on like few others.”

“No LGBTQ+ person would have been elected to any office in this region were it not for Barbara Bailey,” the mayor said. “She always stood by her principles, and she inspired others through her work.”

Bailey is remembered on Broadway for her Bailey/Coy Books, an important part of the street’s culture and LGBTQ communities through three decades at the end of the 20th century.

Her contributions to the neighborhood were remembered when Michael Wells, who took over Bailey/Coy ownership from Bailey, announced the shop’s closure in late 2009:

Barbara created a bookstore that was not only a model of the best in bookstores but was also specifically designed to welcome a lesbian and gay clientele. The American bookselling landscape at that time included general independents and lesbian and gay stores but rarely did those two models mix. Barbara wanted to create a store where the best in general literature existed side by side with the best in lesbian and gay books. Today that seems like a fairly pedestrian idea, but in 1982 it was nothing short of revolutionary. We remain proud of our long history with the Seattle lesbian and gay community and the rich and varied culture that that community has supported over the years.

Bailey/Coy Books began as B. Bailey Books in the Rainier Square building in 1977. In 1982, Bailey opened her second store on Broadway and in 1983 that store became Bailey/Coy Books. What about Coy? Michael Coy also made his mark in Seattle bookselling. Bailey, meanwhile, retired and sold her Capitol HiIll store to Wells, her longtime Bailey/Coy manager.

She retained ownership of the building before selling it for $1.25 million in 2010. Today, it is home to WitnessDue’ Cucina, and a cigar and tobacco shop.

Bailey retired to Port Townsend where she was co-owner of the Chevy Chase Beach Cabins.

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7 thoughts on “Barbara Bailey, founder of Broadway’s much-loved Bailey/Coy Books, remembered

  1. Took me a while today to figure out she actually lived one block down in Portage Bay and I chatted to her regularly. Always full of life, and seemingly in good health. I will miss not seeing her around the neighborhood :(

  2. So much love, light and healing to family & friends.
    Ironically, my now high school age daughter was just thinking of the book store this weekend. We talked for about 30 minutes, remembering going in there for hours and reading and looking and spending what we could. That book store brought local book love to many generations. Sad it’s still gone, and even more so now.

  3. For anyone interested in joining the celebration of Barbara’s life:

    A memorial service will be held on Oct. 21 at the Lakeside School at 3 p.m.; all are welcome. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a contribution to the Barbara Bailey Scholarship Fund at the Pride Foundation.