To the north of the intersection of North 85th Street and Greenwood Avenue, you'll find Balderdash Books and Art with its vertiginously high shelves of cheap paperbacks (the store recently almost doubled in size, adding additional parking in back). Just to the south, 826 Seattle teaches young people how to become more effective writers. And a couple blocks farther down Greenwood, you'll find the new Couth Buzzard bookshop, a business that wants to become the heart of this burgeoning literary-minded community.
In late 2008, after 20 years in the business, Couth Buzzard founder Gerry Lovchik closed his bookstore. But after the financial collapse, landlords became much more accommodating to lower-profit businesses like bookstores. Lovchik partnered with longtime Buzzard manager Theo Dzielak and Penny Wight of Buono Espresso, and a good chunk of the new store is taken up by the ridiculously cheap coffee counter; for $1.37, you can wander around with an enormous mug of Mighty Leaf Earl Grey tea.
Dzielak estimates that the old Couth Buzzard carried 100,000 books. When the original Buzzard closed, all those books were sold or donated. Since the store reopened in January, Dzielak has grown the 6,000 books he bought from Ballard's late, lamented Epilogue Books into 25,000 titles. He estimates he'll add another 15,000 to fill the store. Even now, browsing Couth Buzzard is a pleasure. Hidden in the stacks, you'll find a shelf dedicated to tawdry old erotic paperbacks (First Lust, Illusion of Lust, The Blackmailed Nurse), and an impressive array of staff favorites (Dzielak prefers David Foster Wallace, Miranda July, and Robert Coover; Penny likes Douglas Coupland and Amy Krouse Rosenthal's hypnotic memoir-in-pieces Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life).
But Dzielak is proudest of his bookstore's bustling schedule as a community center. Nearly every night of the week, Couth Buzzard hosts open-mic nights, poetry readings by students at 826 Seattle, or guitar recitals sponsored by the guitar shop down the street that burned down during the arsons late last year. It feels more like a 1960s community hangout than a stodgy used bookstore; the barista, a young woman with long brown braids, occasionally sings along with the Bob Dylan CD playing. A customer asks Dzielak for a copy of Errol Flynn's memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways. Dzielak takes him to the shelf, touches a gap between biographies. "I had it. It was right there. We must've sold it." The customer, a crotchety old man with a cane, grunts and asks, "How'd you know you had it?" "I remember it, man," Dzielak says. "I remember it."
This article has been updated since its original publication.