Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Couth Buzzard is back!

The Couth Buzzard Used Bookstore was a fixture in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of Seattle at 71st and Greenwood Avenue for nearly 20 years.
Then, last year, they closed because the people who own Ken's Market got greedy and wanted to expand their small grocery store to include the entire block of stores that resided alongside them for years, such as the glass blowing shop "Oh My Glass" and the marvelous Greenwood Bakery, where Jim and I bought our wedding cake in 1997 for $50.
The Buzzard was owned and operated by Gerry Lovchik and Marilyn Stauter, two wonderfully fun people who were always up for a lively literary conversation, a game of chess or what have you. Marilyn introduced me to John Steinbecks "To A God Unknown" and I found myself re-reading all of Steinbeck because that book was such a revelation of perfection.
Gerry was always trying to expand my reading horizons with books from the 60s and 70s, and biographies that I would not otherwise have picked up. Because I was working for a pittance at the Phinney Neighborhood Center at the time, he allowed me to help shelve and process books in exchange for a pile of books that I wanted to read. It was like being involved in a treasure hunt every time I walked into the store. I loved the fact that there were dusty shelves and misplaced books lurking around every corner, and that Bill, one of the clerks who called himself a "recovering CPA" was always ready with a bookish joke or quip for every patron. "It's in the C-section, which is actually a very complicated operation," he once said in response to a query about the placement of true crime novels. There was a piano in the corner that usually had someone pounding out a tune over the weekend, and the kids corner had lots of well-loved and ratty stuffed animals for kids to hold while their mothers searched the stacks for bed time stories.
When I heard the store was closing a couple of years ago, I ran into the store and asked what had happened, but Gerry was unflustered by it all, and tried to get me to buy the stores stock and reopen somewhere nearby. I had to decline, because I didn't have enough money to do so, but Gerry swore that someone would purchase the Buzzard and bring it back one day.
Now that day has arrived, and the Buzzard has risen from the ashes at 83rd and Greenwood, complete with a Espresso Buono Coffee shop (and lunch counter, serving Italian sodas, bakery goods and panini sandwiches) and fresh shelves full of used books, plus a stage area for musical bands. It's a lovely, warm and fun space, and yesterday when I went there with my family to check it out, we were regaled with glorious Irish music from a small band that played for hours on end without a break.
People rummaging through the stacks were tapping their toes and wiggling their hips to the jigs and reels, and everyone had a smile on their face and a cup of coffee or soda in their hands.
Gerry has kept all of the old records, so if you had store credit, you can still use it, and I was able to get four great books for under $15. What a deal!
But Theo (the new owner) and Gerry need everyones help in rebuilding their stock of used books, so if you happen to be culling your shelves, please consider meandering down to Greenwood Ave and drop them off at the Couth Buzzard for store credit. You will be glad that you did.
Here's to another 20 years of providing a good deal on books to the populace of Phinney Ridge and Ballard.
Couth Buzzard Books and Espresso Buono, 8310 Greenwood Ave N., Seattle. Phone 206-436-2960

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