Lori Carroll is living the dream.  The princess of paperbacks already has her retirement job and she’s only 37.  Carroll,  who bought the shop in 2018 when it moved to its Beaverton location on 1st street, says no more dancing to the corporate shuffle or toeing somebody else’s line for her. No siree.

“I tell everybody I retired at 37 because I’ll just basically be here until I die,” she says, laughing, “It’s fun, it’s easy.  It’s never going to make me a fortune.  I suppose I could make it into something that would give me enough money to party on but I just don’t think I’m going to do that.  I just don’t feel like I want to put that kind of energy into it.  I’m going to stick to this sort of slow going and I’m going to be here until I die.”

The store is full to the brim with books and local art as well as hand-made trinkets like magnets and scrubbies.  Of the books for sale, she says that 90% of the books are used and some new but not a huge selection.  The decision is economic in nature. “Turns out you have to buy new books before you can make any money on them,” she says wryly.

The store is open 7 days a week and Carroll would have her hands full doing that all by herself but she has a lot of help. She has three part time employees and also what she describes as a “boatload” of volunteers, the actual number of which is 5.  

outside the shop on 1st in downtown
outside the shop on 1st in downtown

Her secret, she says, is that the bookstore is a community.  “We have a huge number of people who have been coming to the store way longer than I’ve been around,” she says.  One woman who volunteers has been helping out since the beginning, “ she says, “she works at the cash register or helping to run the store so that I can get some time on the computer.  Another woman comes in to clean books.  Another couple come in to help me shelve books and help keep the store clean and organized.  When you’re here every day and you have a million things to do just keeping everything organized is a full time job.” 

The pandemic hasn’t been the devastation to Jan’s  that it has been in other segments of the business community.  They weren’t shut down so they were able to continue pretty much as they always had. “The thing is,” she says, “we’ve always had customers who couldn’t make it into the store so we already did things like bringing books out to the car or pulling books ahead of time. The pandemic just made it more like that. We just had one customer in the store at a time and limited in-store shopping. It actually worked to our advantage because we were the only store open for browsing for a while so quite a few people came from quite far away just to be able to browse.”

Carroll, herself, is primarily a romance reader but she says suspense is her number one best seller, with romance coming in second. The store stocks primarily fiction but does have a small non-fiction section but, she says, “our customers are people who read a lot so they churn through series,” so that’s where the stock is concentrated.  To make it more affordable and to foster customer loyalty, Carroll offers trade-ins and in-store credit when customers return books.  Though it isn’t technically a rental service she says there are customers who treat the store almost like a Blockbuster.

Stacks of books and oodles of art
Stacks of books and oodles of art

Carroll says they began having outdoor author events again last summer and she is planning to bring that back again this May. She has already lined up a couple of authors although the details are still secret right now.  “I know a couple of people,” she says, “that have new releases but I haven’t started marketing it yet.”  When she does, patrons can find more information on social media: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as the store website:

The most important thing that people should know about the store she says is that “we are really fun.  Once people come in they fall in love with it.  So just come in.  Check it out.  We just have a good time here.”