Financial woes prompt Elliott Bay Book owner to consider move
Peter Aaron, owner of Elliott Bay Book Co., said Sunday he's considering moving the landmark Seattle business from its longtime home in Pioneer Square partly because of financial troubles. He said the store's lease at the Globe Building expires in late January, when a maxed-out line of credit he had been using to run the business also comes due.
Seattle Times business reporter
The owner of Elliott Bay Book Co. said Sunday he's considering moving the landmark Seattle business from its longtime home in Pioneer Square partly because of financial troubles.
Owner Peter Aaron said the store's lease at the Globe Building expires in late January, when a maxed-out line of credit he had been using to run the business also comes due.
The fast-approaching deadlines mean he is facing crucial decisions, said Aaron, who spoke briefly by phone about the store's difficulties in a tough economy.
Sales plummeted after the meltdown on Wall Street last fall, he said, breaking the store's already-tenuous hold on profitability. What's more, sales continued to decline through August, and he began to wonder if the store would go out of business.
Although sales last month were "a little bit improved," he said, he still has the store's long-term viability to consider. "I need to find a way to operate at a lower expense level or increase our sales," he said.
Elliott Bay Book has been in its rented space at First Avenue and Main Street since opening for business 36 years ago. The store boasts more than 150,000 titles and an old-world charm, complete with creaky wood floors and exposed-brick walls.
"I live in New York, and I come here every time I visit Seattle," said JoDell Shields, 64, standing outside the store Sunday with two new foodie-type books. She said she hopes the store stays in Pioneer Square. "To me, it's so European — the trees, the open spaces and the people-watching."
Aaron acknowledged the store has a "loyal base of customers," as well as a steady stream of tourists to Pioneer Square during the summer. But there are other issues, including a perceived shortage of parking and the neighborhood's gritty reputation.
"All of the problems — real, imagined and perceived — have been so well-documented," he said.
Aaron is talking with his landlord at the Globe Building about a rent reduction, he said, and "both parties are making a good-faith effort." Among locations he's considering, he said, is another in Pioneer Square.
Possible alternatives also include elsewhere in downtown Seattle, Ballard and Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, Aaron said, "finding a lender to keep us liquid is an ongoing battle." His line of credit expires at the end of January, he said, meaning "I must refinance, or the loan gets called." He declined to elaborate, saying only that "until the bank piece is in place, nothing will happen."
Hassan Mohageri, who owns Woven Art, an Oriental carpet store in Pioneer Square, said he would hate to see Aaron take his business elsewhere.
"There isn't a day that goes by when someone doesn't ask where Elliott Bay Books is," Mohageri said. "Tourists, when they come here, have heard about it."
Susan Helbig, of Seattle, said she also hopes the store stays in its current location.
"I hope they don't move, but I understand," said Helbig, who spent Sunday afternoon walking with a friend through Pioneer Square. Fortunately, she said, they found a parking space within 10 minutes.
"There is not enough parking down here," she said. "We asked the goddess of parking to find us a space."
Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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