Photo Credit: Art by S.N. Boreham

Photo Caption: A watercolor drawing of my favorite little bookshop.

By S.N. Boreham

Hidden away between 5th and 6th street in downtown Anacortes, there is a tiny brick building, old and worn, that houses Watermark Book Co. This tiny shop, walked by daily for most, is truly a hidden gem. Far smaller than everyone’s favorite bookstore, Barnes and Noble, Watermark houses just enough of the newest books to keep any book worm satisfied. The only other bookstore in town, Pelican Bay Books, is much larger and mainly filled with used books. It’s larger setup and tiny coffee shop draw in quite a few people, but Watermark has a certain charm to it that people like myself find the most enjoyable. Instead of being crowded and overwhelming, it is small and intimate and allows for a quiet perusing of the shelves or a quick chat with the few other customers and employees.

For nearly three decades, the locally owned and independent Watermark Book Company has remained at the heart of charming little Anacortes. In 1989, longtime owner and cofounder Patti Pattee and her husband Norman Sturdevant, founded the shop in the little brick building down on Commercial Avenue. Today, it has been handed over to two new owners, Ben and Brandy Bowen. In a time where small and local are more uncommon qualities in a shop, the little store has faced many challenges in the world it resides in. It had to compete with the growth of chain bookstores (such as Barnes and Noble) and the invasion of technology into the literary world in the form of eReaders. The Bowens plan on breathing new life into the little shop in the form of new ideas and events. Being a true book snob who despises eReaders, I greatly appreciate the hard work Patti and her team have contributed in keeping the amazing little shop open and am looking forward to watching it continue to thrive under the care of the Bowens.

To me, the best feeling in the world is walking into a bookstore, especially ones like Watermark. It is small and cozy, and as you enter through the little door, you’re immediately enveloped in the homey feel every book shop should strive for, and the wonderful smells of a proper bookstore. Entering this store, is akin to walking into a hobbit hole and sitting down to a hot cup of tea with an old friend. There are nooks and corners to curl up in with a stack of books, and there is always a smiling person to chit chat with, whether it be the happy customers or the even happier employees. It was described on the site, shelf-awareness, as “a highly-regarded independent bookstore with a strong inventory as well as a knowledgeable, experienced staff…”. 

Despite the seemingly common charm of a local book shop, Watermark also has its quirks. In the alley to the right of the building, stands a large cutout of a “Lady Sasquatch” with little cat eye glasses perched on her nose. In her hand, she holds (of course) a book, who’s cover changes around about once a month. The artist who created her, Christine Olsen, changes the book every month or so, and keeps people coming by to check out the latest picks by Lady Sasquatch. Olsen has also created other Sasquatch cutouts and they can be seen scattered throughout town. This one in particular is one of my favorite things about the shop and seems to perfectly sum up it’s unique personality.

Besides the wonderfully welcoming feel, the owners stay on top of providing a diverse inventory and I love the variety of books that I can find hidden within those walls. The first half of the store is like a candy shop; it’s filled up with loads of new books to discover. It has tables and shelves overflowing with the newest reads, along with a collection of literary related items all up for sale. As you go further back, past the friendly face at the front counter, there’s rows of shelves neatly organized with every book imaginable. Up a short set of stairs to the right, is a little landing jam packed with even more shelves of joyous reading material. I love that I can walk in and always find exactly what I’m looking for, even when I had no idea what exactly that was.    

Aside from all the right books, this quaint little shop also offers cards, calendars, maps, and much more book and literary related stock. On top of all that, if you’ve had a run in with the dementors, then Watermark also sells Theo chocolate (a delicious and organic chocolate made in Seattle) to help you recover. Watermark satisfies my needs as a book worm, chocolate fiend, and writer all wrapped up into one perfect little package, and it therefore has captured my heart and has me coming back time and time again. Come on by to one of the best places around to grab your favorite book (or a new one) and let yourself get swept off to a whole new world.