Bailey/Coy Books owner Michael Wells told his staff over the last week—first, individually, the employees who rely on the bookstore for health insurance and then everyone else in a large, reportedly teary meeting—that Bailey/Coy Books will be closing by the end of November. Anyone who has seen Bailey/Coy's nearly bare shelves lately—some holding just a single lonely book—shouldn't be surprised by the news.
In a press release, Wells thanked the community and the employees for keeping Bailey/Coy in business for nearly 30 years, and he asserted that recent rumors of Elliott Bay Book Company's move to Capitol Hill had nothing to do with the closure. There is talk about hosting some sort of a party—something Wells referred to over the phone as "a wake"—at Bailey/Coy before the store closes its doors forever.
It will no doubt be a brilliant affair. In the last year, Bailey/Coy threw launch parties for Rebecca Brown's hyperintelligent, deeply personal collection of essays American Romances and new Stranger Genius Stacey Levine's short-story collection The Girl with Brown Fur. Both were well attended by a diverse sampling of Seattle's literary scene. At the party for Levine, the serious, earnest men behind Subtext (the recently shuttered experimental-poetry reading series) chatted with a local cartoonist in the fiction section; over by the free vodka, a reporter and a writer discussed the latter's recent book deal. No other Seattle institution has such a cross-demographic appeal. Bailey/Coy is a neutral ground, where absolutely everyone feels welcome.
Local blogs are heavy with comments by patrons and friends distressed at the store's passing. Some lament it as the death of the old Broadway, a death that has been playing out slowly over the last 10 years. Everyone is rending their shirts, but the simple fact of the matter is this: If you live on Capitol Hill and you've ordered books from an online retailer, you have a hand in Bailey/Coy's closing, especially if you've browsed at Bailey/Coy and then ordered the books online.
Bailey/Coy is at least going out with class. Despite awful sales in recent years, Wells paid off a significant portion of his bookstore's debts, and the fact that he maintained health insurance for his full-time employees to the end is emblematic of a businessman who knows what really matters. Wells's announcement came almost a week before National Bookstore Day, which takes place on Saturday, November 7. If you are saddened by Bailey/Coy's announcement, you should take the time to visit on Saturday, and go support a few other independent bookstores besides.