Booktique searches for a new home
The Booktique, a longtime staple of the Lake Grove community, is racing to find a new location before redevelopment of the Providence Mercantile campus forces it to close its doors.
The nonprofit shop sells used books that have been donated by community members and the Lake Oswego Public Library, with proceeds going to fund additional Library programs. The arrangement has been successful for more than 25 years.
But a relocation countdown began two years ago when developer CenterCal Properties approached Providence, Booktique's landlord, with a deal to purchase and redevelop the Mercantile Center on the corner of Boones Ferry Road and Kruse Way. And so far, the search for a new home has come up empty.
The bookstore is operated by the Friends of the Lake Oswego Library and is staffed almost entirely by volunteers. It was originally founded in the early 1990s by the Friends under the leadership of Jack Radow and Herb Bumgarner, and has remained in its small home in the corner of one of the Mercantile buildings ever since.
"It's the best volunteer project I've ever done," says Barbara Gold, who has volunteered at Booktique for three years. "We all love books, reading and knowledge, and it's a great way to stay involved."
All of the Mercantile complex's existing occupants were put on month-to-month leases during the lengthy design phase, and the project proposal was submitted earlier this year for evaluation by Lake Oswego's Development Review Commission. A final decision could be handed down as early as this week.
Once development is cleared and CenterCal is ready to proceed, all of the campus's remaining tenants will be given 30 days notice to vacate, and several of the Booktique's neighbors have already taken the opportunity to move out in the past two years.
The Booktique does have a plan for a new long-term home: The Lake Oswego City Council is currently working on plans for a new City Hall building, which is being designed with storefront spaces in order to better utilize the area along A Avenue. The council has already named Booktique and the Arts Council as the two tenants that will occupy the space.
There's just one problem.
"The new space won't be ready, we think, for at least two years," says Nancy Niland, president of the Friends group.
The new City Hall hasn't even broken ground yet, but CenterCal and its partners could be ready to begin construction in a matter of months, leaving a multi-year gap in which Booktique will need to move to a temporary location. The store has money set aside to fund a move, Niland says, but so far it hasn't gone anywhere because the shop hasn't been able to find an affordable location.
Booktique was originally able to rent its current space for just $1 per month, Niland says. That deal had to be changed in recent years, but Providence still only charges the shop $1,300 per month for its 1,500-square-foot space.
Without a discounted rent arrangement, the store's expenses will quickly eat up the revenue that currently goes to the library, leading to a substantial loss in library programming, according to Library Director Bill Baars.
'We couldn't do a fraction of what we do at the library without Booktique," he says. "They bring us $50,000 per year."
Finding a temporary location will almost certainly require finding a landlord willing to offer a similar rent arrangement, but Baars says Booktique can bring other benefits to landlords, such as increased foot traffic generated by its reputation as a community hub.
"It's a win-win, I think, for any place that has it nearby," he says.
But so far, there's been no luck finding any interested parties, and Niland, Baars and the dozens of volunteers who staff the bookstore are all grappling with the possibility of having to close the store for two years.
If that happens, the store's current inventory would most likely go into storage, Niland says, and the Friends would probably not be able to accept any new donations — including donations from the library itself, which often donates older books that are being rotated off the shelves.
"It really gives the community a second chance at things that are no longer needed at the library," Niland says.
Until the clock runs out, Niland and Baars say they plan to keep searching for anywhere that could serve as a temporary home, and they're appealing to anyone in Lake Oswego who might know where Booktique could set up shop. In the immediate future, they say that as long as the space in the Mercantile campus remains available, Booktique's doors will remain open for business at its usual hours — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Wednesdays — and the volunteers will keep coming in.
"It's something that if I didn't have it to go to," says Leroy Swanner, a former Booktique manager who still periodically volunteers at the shop, "I'd really miss it."