A new children’s bookstore, Wishing Tree Books, celebrated its Grand Opening Extravaganza on Nov. 2, complete with a ribbon cutting ceremony, story time and kids’ yoga on the front lawn.
Inside this bright lavender house tucked away in the South Perry District is a wonderland of children’s books and toys. For owner Janelle Smith, this store is a dream come true.
Smith has wanted to open a bookstore since she was teenager. At the age of 14, she was already thinking about what authors she would sell, what the place would look like and what she would do.
She was in college when she first started purchasing children’s books. Her college roommate gave her a beautiful copy of “The Little Prince” as a gift.
“Children’s books are what I have always done,” Smith said. “When I was young, I just thought they were little works of art. The ability of the printing presses and what they could do with color in children’s books opened up the whole world as far as the artwork in the books.”
Her first job in the book world was during college at Children’s Corner Bookstore, in Riverfront Park Square. For her speech class, Smith was asked to interview someone with a job she wanted. Naturally, she called up a bookstore owner. Afterward, she continued to call them until they gave her a job.
“I figured, if you want to be in that world, you have to work in it,” Smith said. “Children’s Corner has such a high bar of customer service and quality of literature. Several people coming into Wishing Tree Books have said it reminds them of Children’s Corner bookstore.”
Two years ago, when Smith was working at Auntie’s Bookstore downtown her husband kept telling her customers that they were going to be opening their own bookstore soon. To this, Smith replied that if they were going to do it, they had better do it now.
“Where else would you put it?” Smith said when asked why she chose a house in the South Perry neighborhood for her bookstore. She had dreamed of the location for years because of its neighborhood feel.
One day Smith and her husband walked out of South Perry Brewery and noticed that the house across the street was home to The Center for Family Development. Since it is easier to get a building zoned commercial if it is already next to a commercial site, she wrote down the address for the house next door, even though it wasn’t for sale. As luck would have it, three weeks later, the house was on the market.
Smith was fortunate to receive a generous investment from fellow booksellers Tegan and Jordan Tagani, who purchased the house for Wishing Tree Books. Smith met the Taganis through a regional trade association called Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association.
“I was always impressed by Janelle’s knowledge and judgement,” Tegan Tagani said. “I knew that she would be an asset to any community, and if I could help keep her in the industry, the world would be a better place.”
Like many independent bookstores, Wishing Tree Books will host many activities and events. The houses’ garage is the perfect space for having birthday parties, arts and crafts, book groups and poetry sessions.
“I want to find a way that we can be more than just a store for people by offering different experiences,” Smith said. “And you don’t forget that. People still talk about when they were growing up and going to the children’s bookstore and loved that. To be in somebody’s memory will be the absolute best.”
Smith has professional experience working as an event coordinator at Auntie’s and has experience organizing activities for afterschool programs. Her goal is to bring books to life and create more connection with stories through these activities.
“The events and activities are what set independent bookstores apart from Amazon,” Smith said. “You might not be able to get your book in four hours or less, but we are a part of the community and offer these events to the people in our towns and create a sense of belonging. It’s super important for what independent bookstores stand for.”
With the holidays just around the corner, Smith is excited for the future. Their new website is coming soon and after Christmas, Smith intends to start organizing more community events. Until then, Smith is just excited to finally have Wish Tree Book’s doors open.
“When a neighborhood has a bookstore, it has a safe and caring place,” Tegan Tagani said. “It has a space dedicated to the exchange of ideas and it has a location that focuses on opening minds and encouraging thoughtful discourse. We feel that every neighborhood should have such a place.”
Wishing Tree Books is located at 1410 E. 11th Ave. The store is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.