On June 1stSeattle’s premier independent bookstore changed hands and was purchased by 32-year-old general manager Tracy Taylor and partners (in business and in life) Joey Burgess and Murf Hall of Queer/Bar.
A change of ownership can be viewed with suspicion when an institution is so popular. Luckily for the store’s many loyal customers, Taylor, Burgess and Hall don’t plan to change much – yes, those half-filled punch cards are still accepted – and are committed to continuing the Elliott Bay legacy.
The small family business was founded by Walter and Maggie Carr in 1973 and quickly grew into a literary mecca, hosting notable writers and thinkers from across the country. The trio of new owners recently had tea with the Carrs, who recalled the bookstore’s checkered past with uncanny accuracy. You could even remember what Jimmy Carter ate when he visited decades ago (cold poached salmon and wild rice, in case you’re wondering).
Taylor, Burgess and Hall succeed Peter Aaron, who was the owner for 23 years following the Carrs tenure and oversaw the business’ move from its flagship Pioneer Square location to Capitol Hill in 2010. He will stay on as an advisor in June to ease the transition.
This isn’t the trio’s first joint venture. In 2021 they co-opened Big Little News, a hybrid bodega and magazine seller on Pike and 11th. Burgess and Hall are fiercely protective of what they still consider their neighborhood. It’s “our downtown…a main street that has felt like home to us,” even amid the tectonic changes that Capitol Hill has experienced over the past two decades.
The couple own a handful of other small businesses in the neighborhood, including Cuff Complex and Cupcake Royale. Your investment in this community is intentional. “I think queer spaces and the bookstore and bodegas and cupcakes and street activities make the neighborhood exactly what it is, which is a queer arts hub,” says Burgess.
In the age of Amazon — whose headquarters are less than two miles away — physical locations where print media can thrive, like Big Little News and Elliott Bay, are a precious, dwindling resource.
Taylor noted that the pandemic has “made people hyperlocal” and made them value their surroundings. Residents “realized they want these shops and stores in their neighborhoods and have started to support them,” more than ever.
For many, Taylor explains, buying a book can be a deeply personal and sometimes vulnerable experience. She sees Elliott Bay as a priceless public institution where people can feel safe and empowered in their exploration of the world and their own identity.