On Saturday, May 14, 2022, Broadway Books celebrated their 30th anniversary with a party to welcome avid readers and the literary community into their beautiful space on NE Broadway in Portland.
Literary Arts cherishes the long-time partnership we’ve enjoyed with Broadway Books. We wanted to take the occasion of their anniversary to get to know this landmark bookstore a bit better, and share the celebration with all of you. We asked current owners Sally McPherson and Kim Bissell to reflect on Broadway Books’ past and present; their responses are below.
Broadway Books was opened back in 1992: 30 years ago. By the age of 30, most adults have had some big rites of passage—learning to drive, going through school, and definitely reading plenty of books. What kind of thirty-year-old Portlander is Broadway Books? How is adult life treating them?
What a great question! Like all good 30-year-olds, Broadway Books is reflecting on our age and potential, and settling into adult life. While we have stayed the same size, we’ve grown in sales and customer relationships in the last 30 years. So what do we know now about ourselves? We are committed to the NE Portland community and to sharing stories that soothe and surprise from the many voices that make up our rich and illustrious city. We’ve sharpened our tastes over the years to better meet our customer’s needs and crystallized our connection to local authors and publishers. We still have so much to learn and experience and we look forward to growing in ways that best foster our healthy literary community!
Your website says your building was a furniture store before it was the independent bookstore we all love. If Broadway Books were a piece of furniture, what would it be for the community? Why?
I think we’d be a really lovely Stickley wooden chair with a super comfortable leather cushion. A little bit old school, a lot of NE Portland architecture, some easy compatibility and, of course, comfortable. Or maybe a very large bookcase!
Three decades of bookselling. That’s what? Tens of thousands of books you have had on your shelves? Like bestsellers, there have probably been some top memories for the store and the staff. Are there any events, moments, or anything else since the start that really stand out?
We have hosted some wonderful events here at the store over the years, too many to recount all the highlights. Here are several of my favorites: A couple of years ago we hosted Mitchell S. Jackson’s paperback edition release of his groundbreaking memoir Survival Math. He was interviewed by the incomparable Cheryl Strayed and we had a packed house, which included Mitch’s beaming, proud mother. It was a really special night for a home-town star and this doting bookstore!
I have also loved our poetry readings; my favorite was a Windfall Poetry Journal reading from 2015 that included several wonderful Oregon poets including Ursula K. LeGuin. I hadn’t ever seen her read publicly before that night and I was star struck with awe at her grace and good nature. That was an amazing night!
Also the many, many readings we held here at the store with writer, poet, and friend Brian Doyle. His magical stylings and musings could move an entire room from full tears to full guffaw in a matter of minutes; I’ll never forget his wisdom and mirth.
We’ve had some wonderful times here at Broadway Books in the last 30 years . . .
Words do the vital work of helping us share our stories and voices with one another. If Broadway Books were a book itself, what genre would you place it under? What is something this book would want to share with the world?
Oooo, this is a hard one. I think we might be a really good Portland travel guide. One that shares the magic of well-traveled and treasured sites, a healthy dose of unusual or off-the-beaten track highlights, and historical stories to provide context. I hope we’d include some wonderful local voices to best describe our depth of literary community.
What are you excited for in the next thirty years of Broadway Books?
More of the same, but better. We hope to have the same fun, well-read and intellectually curious customers. We hope for the community’s continued dedication to shopping local. We hope to celebrate more national acclaim for our local author talent! And, above all, we hope to still be a member of this vibrant literary community partnering with wonderful organizations like Literary Arts!
You can visit Broadway Books on NE Broadway Street in Portland or online.
You can also often catch them at Literary Arts events, including the Portland Book Festival in November, and in the lobby at the Schnitzer for our Portland Arts & Lectures events. (In fact, you can buy next season’s PAL author books at a discount through Broadway Books between now and June 13th!)
Congratulations to everyone at Broadway Books for an incredible 30 years of fostering a love of books and reading in the Portland community. Here’s to many, many more!