Changes have sprouted at Mukilteo’s only bookstore, which will focus more on children’s books, activities and crafts.
Local artist Joni Hardwick is the new owner of Mukilteo Booksellers, located in the Lincoln Courtyard.
Hardwick is introducing a “Whirled Peas Patch,” a space where kids can read, make crafts and, otherwise, just be kids.
For book lovers who liked the bookstore the way it was, there will still be a space for them, too – in the store’s Rosehill Room.
From the Mukilteo Beacon:
On Sept. 1, Hardwick passed the bookstore on her way to Red Cup and saw the sign: For Sale. What she saw was opportunity.
Steve Anderson, owner for nine years, had decided to move on. Over the years, the bookstore had become dormant.
“This sleepy little bookstore is waking up, like our little pea patch,” Hardwick said.
For years it’s been a dream of Hardwick’s to start a space – a sort of learning center for children – with story time, crafts and kid-friendly classes. The bookstore seemed like the perfect space.
“It’s always been a lifelong dream – I just didn’t expect that it would happen,” she said. “But when you’ve dreamt of something and then the opportunity presents itself, you just have to take it.”
After Hardwick shared her vision with Anderson, he was sold. “He said, ‘You know what? You’re the person that should have my store,’” she said.
For a dream like hers, Hardwick needed a lot of players.
Enter Terry Preshaw and Scott Casselman, Hardwick’s “silent partners.”
Preshaw and Casselman represent those in the community who savor browsing shelf after shelf of real books in a real bookstore. When they discovered that Anderson was selling, they were on board for saving the store.
Since Hardwick wants the focus to be children’s books and activities, and her partners want to save the bookstore as is, they compromised.
One side will be named the Rosehill Room, where it will still have Anderson’s selection – albeit about half the size – of adult books and a “sleepy, quiet, cozy” feel. The other side is to become the Whirled Peas Patch.
“All those people who don’t want it to change, they can sneak into the Rosehill Room with their coffee and enjoy the quiet and the books,” she said.
“But on the Whirled Peas Patch side, it’s going to be much livelier.”
Hardwick also wants adults to share the learning space, by hosting book clubs, local author readings, board game nights, and crafts, from beading to scrapbooking.
The bookstore hosted its first author reading on Dec. 23. Local author Eric Lucas read from his book “The Island Horse.”
“It will be like the community center of old, but on a small scale,” she said. “We want to have it be the center for community.”
She said she may also eventually change the name of the bookstore to The Secret Garden, to reflect the growth of community that is going on inside and in honor of the children’s book by the same name.
A former artist in residence for Mill Creek Elementary, Hardwick said she’s going to add hand-painted murals that go with the garden theme.
“It kind of encompasses what we really want to do in there completely,” she said.
Although she is a Mukiltean, Hardwick lives in Japan most of the year with her husband and two young boys. She comes back to Mukilteo for the holidays and in the summers.
Therefore, Hardwick has had to realize her dream in stages. A week after forming a bookstore partnership, she moved back to Japan.
She became the new owner Sept. 31. Still in Japan, Hardwick needed a bookstore general manager to tend to the garden – so to speak – while she’s away.
Enter Johnathan Preshaw.
In the following months, Anderson taught Johnathan, Terry’s son, the ways of the bookstore. He then sorted through the wall-to-wall collection of new and used cookbooks, fiction and history books.
Hardwick told him to make way for more children’s books and coffee table books – the books you can’t appreciate on a Kindle.
She wants to re-introduce the classics to kids, such as “The Secret Garden,” “King of the Wind” or “Shiloh” – the books she enjoyed reading when she was a kid. On Facebook, Mukilteo Booksellers asks book lovers to share their childhood favorites, too, so they can add those to the collection.
“We’re having a blast going through those books,” Hardwick said. “It’s just this huge treasure trove in there.”
Terry Preshaw and Scott Casselman were both busy running for Mukilteo City Council, so many of the other changes were put on hold.
Back in Mukilteo for the holidays, Hardwick is busy with the next stage of her vision.
“I’ve turned the place upside down,” she said.
The Hardwicks are in the process of renovating the bookstore. They are keeping the store open through the renovations. A grand opening is set for July.
Husband Kirk Hardwick is moving and remodeling bookshelves, so that the store is more open and inviting. The front counter – which he fashioned out of old shelves – is now off to the side, in front of the window. And there is room for tables and chairs.
“It’s always been a venture for her, a dream to have a spot where she can have kids’ activities and things, and this makes it come true,” he said.
As the face of the bookstore, Hardwick said she is supposed to buy back Preshaw’s share, but after all the excitement of re-opening the store, she said Preshaw will likely keep it.
“I said to Terry, it needed somebody to breathe life into it, and hey, if we’re nothing else, we are full of life… I think she’s going to stay and play.”
There is still a lot to do, but Hardwick said she’s happy to finally be realizing her dream – and to watch it grow.
“It’s a little bit of everything, where everybody comes together and grows things together,” she said. “That’s my artsy fartsy vision.”
Mukilteo Booksellers is at 619 4th St. in Lincoln Courtyard. Hours are 10-6 p.m. Tuesday- Saturday. Phone is 425-438-BOOK (2665).