Story and Photos by Laurel Gerkman
Ten-year-old ted watkins wanted the book about Daniel Boone at first sight. He asked his mother to buy it for him. She did.
Thus began a man's lifelong passion for collecting books that culminated as the largest bookstore on the Oregon Coast. "It got me started," says Watkins. "I still have that book today."
Man Behind the Books
Ted Watkins grew up to be a successful attorney. Over time, he collected books of all types that eventually filled several storage units. A few years ago, Watkins retired from practicing law and moved to Gold Beach. He brought his enormous book collection and obsession with him.
Now a full-time resident of a place he remembers fondly from his childhood, Watkins says that the only thing he thought could improve the "most beautiful area on earth" was a great big bookstore.
He built the Biscuit Building in 2003, naming it for the Biscuit Fire that months earlier had consumed 500,000 acres of nearby Kalmiopsis and Siskiyou wilderness. The 12,000-square-foot, two-story facility became Gold Beach Books and the Biscuit CoffeeHouse and Art Gallery, all focal points of social activity in town and housing muses for everyone's taste and anyone’s budget.
"You can never have enough books," says Watkins.
Upon entering the building's grand foyer, the senses buzz, stimulated by the sights, sounds, and smells. Books are everywhere. An espresso machine fizzles and steams amid whispered conversations. An array of local art beckons from the gallery. Sweet aromas of baked goods waft through the air. All around, thought-provoking quotes are painted on the walls.
Gold Beach Books Inc. boasts a collection of 50,000 books, new, used, and collectible. Comfortable chairs tucked between aisles provide hideaways in which to scrutinize purchases or enjoy a quiet chat. Internet access and laptop portals, even complimentary online computers, are available to broaden access to the world.
The coffeehouse features blends of beans from all over the world for coffee concoctions made to order. Fruit smoothies, herb teas, and bottled cold drinks are also on the menu. Oversized muffins, gooey squares, and chunky cookies are baked on the premises. Marionberry scones and Triple Chocolate Coronary brownies are favorites served alongside bottomless cups of house joe.
While sipping, patrons can peruse the art gallery that features artists from around the state and many media. Shows are rotated throughout the year, and Gold Beach Books hosts free receptions to mark each opening.
The Biscuit Showroom upstairs, decorated regally in tones of burgundy and beige, has walls lined with the works of literary giants and serves as a meeting room that can seat up to 60 people. The public can reserve this stately space that is equipped with a projector screen and sound system. Like a museum, glass showcases protect rare editions of books by John Steinbeck, Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway, and other legends. A couple of Watkins' favorites on display are a copy of In My Own Words, signed by Mother Theresa of Calcutta, and a volume about Vatican architecture, published in 1694, which he purchased in Rome.
Community clubs hold regular gatherings here. Members and visitors are welcome to join the activities of Knifty Knitters, Chess Nuts, and the Camera Club, among others. A Writers' Circle is held weekly, and Friday Night Open Microphone encourages patrons to share poetry, prose, music, comedy, or literary passages. Educational programs include such events as lectures on iconography, video tours of Costa Rica, and presentations about the life cycle of green sturgeon in the Rogue River.
Live music entertains most Saturday nights. Local favorite Euchre Creek String Band plays often as does Homemade Jam, a father–daughter duo that plays folk rock. Out-of-town musicians also stop by,
bringing the sounds of jazz, classical, and acoustic guitar. On weekends, 81-year-old pianist Ray Kornell plays easy-listening music.
Rain or shine, through all the seasons, there's always something happening at the Biscuit Building. For Watkins, "one of the biggest surprises is the number of talented local writers, artists, and musicians that just needed a venue."
Oregon Coast January/February 2008
Gold Beach Books and the Biscuit CoffeeHouse & Art Gallery are located at 29707 Ellensburg Avenue in downtown Gold Beach. Open 7 a.m. - 10 p.m. everyday.
Visit the Web site and sign up for Gold Beach Books' e-mail newsletter to receive information on upcoming events and collectible items. Holidays and authors' birthdays are commemorated with discounts, contests, and prizes. You'll also get a taste of Ted Watkins' homespun humor in every issue.
Canyon Way Bookstore and Restaurant (Newport)
Canyon way is not just a bookstore: It's a bookstore and gift shop, and restaurant and deli. Many people travel an hour or more just for the Canyon Way experience. That’s the way it's been for more than 30 years.
Part of what sets Canyon Way apart is its ambiance, and much of that comes from many small rooms in a building dating before 1910. "It's one of the oldest buildings in Newport," says Roguey Doyle, co-owner with husband Ed.
The bookstore places an emphasis on children’s books, mysteries, history (both local and world), natural history, and home building and crafts. Children's books are the biggest sellers. "We choose our children's books very carefully," Roguey says. "We have quite a selection of recently published books as well as classics, especially illustrated classics.' The gift shop with its unique items created by local artisans and the selection of funny and clever cards helps fund the bookstore. Patrons enjoy going into cozy room after cozy room to find books of a particular genre. And when anyone gets hungry, great food is only steps away. (541-265-8319)
Cannon Beach Book Company
Cannon Beach Book Company is a great browsers' bookstore and very hard to walk away from empty-handed. "We give the books an opportunity to shine by showing them face out or face up," says owner Valerie Ryan.
The bookstore prides itself on a great selection of good literature, both classic and contemporary. For mystery buffs, a large mystery section beckons, and a good selection of children’s books is beautifully displayed. There are many regional books, including several about Cannon Beach. And there's the eclectic selection of hand-picked favorites.
"Cannon Beach is a wonderful place to be," says Ryan. "Independent urban book stores have an infinite capacity to disappoint because they either don't have enough books, the right kind of books, or discount them enough. Here at the edge of the world, we have the infinite capacity to surprise and delight. People simply don't expect such a copious inventory." (800-436-0906; www.cannonbeachbooks.com)