King’s Books: A Hidden Gem

Boasting almost a city block of books, a mural decorates the side of King’s Books.

King’s Books is a independently owned used, rare and new bookstore located in the heart of Tacoma on 218 St. Helens Avenue. Immediately upon entering you feel special just to be there. It is owned by sweet pea Flaherty (who requested his first name not be capitalized) who cites Kindred by Octavia E. Butler as one of his favorite novels. The entire building has a unique antique feel to it.

The building has been around since the early 1900s and has been everything from a laundromat in the 1970s to a cabinet-maker shop.  The large industrial space accommodates the many wooden shelves stacked with books from Twilight to Pride and Prejudice. 80 percent of the books are used, and the remaining 20 percent are new. It is a great place for booksters to scour shelf upon shelf of books and if luck is on their side, encounter a rare find.

King’s Books’ store-cat Miko chills on a chair. Photo by Andy Cox.

King’s Books’ website has recently made available an option to purchase both books and e-books online. The website includes a “Staff Picks” section in which sweet pea and other staff members select books which otherwise could be missed by shoppers and sweet pea makes it certain that they be recognized. Upcoming events are displayed on the website, some that are coming up towards the end of this month include author discussions with Gregg Olsen and J.A. Jance.

King’s Books also hosts a variety of book clubs such as “classics,” “graphic novels,” “GLBT,” and “banned.” Members of each club meet about once a month to discuss the assigned novels. King’s Books provides a great venue for fellow booksters to meet a community of book lovers, allowing them to converse freely without judgment. Every month also brings events such as poetry readings and writing groups. This bookstore also serves as a location for community grassroots movements such as the Parents Across America Tacoma (PAAT) who discusses matters regarding the local public education system.

As I talk with sweet pea on the phone, I get to know the beginnings of King’s Books and how he came to be the owner of such a unique establishment. It all began in Madison, Wisconsin, where sweet pea worked for the previous owners for approximately seven and a half years. The establishment then moved to Tacoma and sweet pea became the new owner and has been for the past year and a half.

As I asked him how business was going he replied with a laugh stating that it has been “challenging for years” since local bookstores often don’t produce as much revenue as the mainstream giants like Barnes & Noble. Even though King’s Books is an underdog in the book business, it still does quite well due to the large amount of community support. sweet pea defines the motto of King’s Books to be guided by creating awareness for the unique beauty of Tacoma and its diverse habitants.

King’s Books provides a great change from boring mainstream bookstores like Barnes & Noble, creating an atmosphere of both uniqueness and diversity. With all the community involvement, it seems Tacoma is proud to accommodate such a distinct establishment and hopefully more people will come to know of this hidden gem.

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