Remembering the Bookvendor

Nov 30, 2010 | 7 comments

from our bookmark

     At this time of year, my thoughts inevitably turn to books.  Books are the first choice of gifts for any occasion in our family, but most especially at Christmas.  One of the greatest pleasures of the Christmas shopping season was the time spent in the local bookstore trying to choose just the right titles for each person on the list.  Of course, that was in the days before internet shopping and, also, before book prices soared out of budget range, enforcing stricter limits – as in one book per person.
     My favorite all-time bookstore was the Bookvendor in Long Beach – alas no more!  Nyel and I were its third and last owners and, perhaps, would have it still if Val hadn’t needed the space for her daughter Nancy’s art gallery business.  But that is probably wishful thinking.
     In the 1960s when the youngest of Dr. and Mrs. John Campiche’s children were beginning high school, Mrs. C. (Val) took umbrage with the fact that the city of Long Beach, the largest metropolis on the peninsula, had never voted funds for a public library.  Ilwaco, five miles to the south, and Ocean Park, ten miles to the north, both had libraries but neither was within walking distance of the Campiche home in Seaview.  That Long Beach had twice the population of either of the other communities with libraries further infuriated Val.
     So, she determined to remedy the situation.  She rented a little hole-in-the wall storefront on the main street of Long Beach (the north part of the current Cottage Bakery), drove her old station wagon to Seattle where she spent a glorious afternoon choosing books to buy, hauled them home, and set them up to be lent out.  Her husband, John, whose hobby was woodworking, carved out some ornate letters which said Booklender, attached them to a long board, and hung it above the door.  Val lent books for pennies a day and stocked her lending library shelves with titles which would interest not only her own teenagers, but people of all ages, and all circumstances, as well.
     The enterprise was a wonderful success.  By the time her kids were out of school, Val decided that she should segue the business into a full-time bookstore rather than continue as a lending library.  When the building just across the street on the corner of Bolstad and Pacific came up for sale, Val bought it and outfitted the corner space as a bookstore.  Her funds were  limited so she decided  to save on re-making the sign.  She had the ‘L’ in Booklender changed to a ‘V’ but didn’t bother about changing the last ‘E’ to an ‘O’ until later. It wasn’t for some time that the Bookvender could afford the transition to Bookvendor.
     We bought the business in 1992; Val still owned the building.  We bought from Gordon Shoewe who had worked for Val in the 1970s and bought the bookstore in the 1980s.  Nyel, in turn, worked for Gordon before we bought from him.  Gordon did a big business in cookbooks and mysteries.  We were known for our children’s department, for our author booksignings, and for our poetry reading nights.  All of us miss those days and are fond of those conversations that begin “Remember when the Bookvendor…”


  1. Nancy

    Ah, the Bookvendor! What a sweet memory. Thank you. So glad I kept a bookmark. The store would be a must stop for me, when on the Peninsula, if Nyel was behind the counter and the window had been decorated by Sydney.

  2. Patty Brewe

    Great memories for sure! I can remember taking Blair in there and her being so excited to get the next books in her favorite Little Sister series… wow was that really 20 something years ago?

  3. Jan Bono

    My very FIRST booksigning, December 2, 1995, was at the Bookvendor! How well I remember the thrill of seeing MY NAME in the corner window! Now it’s mostly online at and it’s not exactly the same thing, is it? Hugs, Jan

  4. Flora Gardener

    I ran across a Bookvendor bookmark while unpacking my books onto their new shelves, and it was then that I realized that you had been the proprietor of that wonderful bookshop. I read several books last year about small bookshops; one was “The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop.” I think you’d like it.

  5. Dorothy Danielson

    Oh — I too have Fond Memories of the Bookvendor –and several of it’s Caretakers over the years that I lived there —-books are so Wonderful — except when I am trying to work — so mostly I read books on tape and paint at the same time — works pretty good

  6. Brigid

    Good morning Sydney: Another winner here. The Bookvendor was always my favorite place in Long Beach. I was in that mystery department regularly and knew right where to reach for my next book. I would pass them on to my sister who liked the same books. She could never figure out why I bought them instead of checking them out from the library. Something about owning a book… Now with so many books, I am happy to check it out. No place to store it. If it hadn’t been for Roy working the counter I probably would have never been on council in Long Beach. He shared his opinions regularly and kept the conversations lively. Great inspiration. Great memories.

  7. Memi

    I have bookmarks, too, and I treasure them. I was there for one of Willard’s book signings and also for Karol Redfern’s baking book. (Her mother lives here in Westport, by the way). I was in the Bookvendor quite a few times before I realized Nyel was your husband!! I used to mail order certain books, too, and he was always so nice about it. He put the invoice in the package and trusted me to send a check back and that was before he knew you and I were friends. I just wanted you to know that I, also, have wonderful memories or your beautiful bookstore and wish you still had it, though I don’t know where you would find the time!!


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