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Nearing 50 years in Seattle, Elliott Bay Book Company has new Capitol Hill owners

Elliott Bay Book Company’s new owners (Image: Elliott Bay/Tanner Mclaughlin)

Just short of its 50th year of business, Capitol Hill’s most popular retail transplant has new owners and a new connection to the neighborhood.

Tracy Taylor, Elliott Bay Book Company’s general manager of the past 32 years, and married team Murf Hall and Joey Burgess of the Burgess Hall Group announced they have purchased the iconic store.

“We are all deeply committed to the neighborhood,” Taylor said in an announcement of the deal. “Capitol Hill has experienced explosive growth in recent years, and Elliott Bay has had tremendous opportunities as the neighborhood has changed around it. Amidst the development, Murf and Joey have made thoughtful and intentional investments in the community.”

Peter Aaron, who has owned Elliott Bay since 2001 and moved the business to Capitol Hill, said it has been “an honor and a privilege to serve as steward of this unique and wonderful haven of literature and civility for the past 23 years.”

“In planning for my exit, my primary concern has been to pass that stewardship on to the right hands, and in Tracy, Murf, and Joey, I’m confident in having succeeded,” Aaron said in the announcement. “Their experience, energy, and talents make them ideally suited to ensure that the bookstore will continue to thrive and to maintain the standards and traditions which have been hallmarks of the business throughout the years.”

Financial terms of the sale were not released.

The deal for Elliott Bay lands on June 1st, the start of Pride month in the neighborhood and builds on Burgess and Taylor’s successful collaboration to create Pike/Pine newsstand Big Little News which opened with bottles of champagne and 250+ “foreign and domestic magazines, newspapers and zines” in March 2021.

It adds Elliott Bay to an extended Capitol Hill business family including Burgess Hall’s Queer/Bar and The Cuff.

Born on Seattle’s Main Street in 1973, Elliott Bay marked its 40th anniversary in the city at its home on 10th Ave after moving to Capitol Hill in 2010. It remains one of the largest, longest running independent bookstores in the country.

Aaron purchased the business in 2001 from founders Walter and Maggie Carr.

The April 2010 opening on Capitol Hill marked a new chapter for Pike/Pine as waves of development and huge investment in the area’s nightlife economy reshaped the neighborhood. Today, 10th Ave is home to a quintessential Pike/Pine mix including the legendary bookshop. Macklemore’s golf fashion play Bogey Boys stopped through for a temporary stay before teeing off again in University Village. Last summer, Glossier restarted its global beauty retail ambitions with a new store on the street. New era furniture retailer Joybird is lined up to take over the former Everyday Music space down 10th Ave.

Like so many of Pike/Pines most popular venues, Elliott Bay makes its home in some of the remaining vestiges of the neighborhood’s long ago auto row. Longtime owner Capitol Hill-based Hunters Capital sold the 102-year-old former auto row warehouse home to Elliott Bay in 2017 to the Keeler Investment Group, an investor in “Pacific Northwest-based, early stage, private equity and real estate opportunities,” for $14 million.

Now approaching its 50th anniversary, the store has survived the rise of online retailing — and the pandemic. Inside, the Little Oddfellows cafe has just recently reopened after months of pandemic closure.

The business has also shifted with the changing relationships between workers and employers. In 2020, the Book Workers Union formed to represent Elliott Bay’s employees.

The new ownership says it doesn’t plan to change Elliott Bay short of a possible “new coat of paint.”

“Our intention is to continue much of what Peter has done so successfully during his ownership,” Hall said in the press release on the deal.

Taylor said the store will “always be looking at ways to expand and serve the local community through brick and mortar, online sales, author readings, and community events.”

 

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public spaces belong to people
public spaces belong to people
21 days ago

YAY – here’s to another 50!

John M Feit
John M Feit
20 days ago

Hurrah!