Tales For Sale: Longtime Local Business Burien Books Is On The Market

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Story by Rachel M. Lusby
Photos by Jim Branson

Longtime local business, Burien Books, is up for sale.

Burien Books was owned and operated by Virginia Pearce for 50 years. Pearce passed away recently at the age of 96 (read Jim Branson’s tribute to her here) and now the bookstore is being placed for sale by her nephew Joe Wisen.

“It’s a part of the estate,” Wisen said. “I cannot keep it running.” Wisen says he has other businesses of his own to run.

Burien Books is located at 643 SW 152nd St. and has been a staple in the community. One customer says she can find the books she needs for her book club, even when she cannot find them at bigger bookstore chains.

The last five or six years, Wisen says, Pearce was “getting tired.” He said she started to do things she enjoyed like working in her garden and bringing things into the store to decorate instead of dealing with the business aspect of things.

Marian Floyd has worked at Burien Books for 17 years and thinks the store may be the oldest one in the area to be owned by one person. “Even the feed store has changed owners,” she said.

Never having been modernized, the bookstore has used a wooden drawer that predates even the oldest of cash registers. It has sections for quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies and sections for paper money but no buttons.

The late Virginia Pearce used this wooden cash register up until the day she passed away.

Floyd said Virginia believed this had worked just fine for 50 years and there was no need for any “modern contraptions.” They do not even use a calculator. The store does take credit cards but uses a hand-operated card swiper with carbon paper.

Floyd says the bookstore has mostly repeat customers and a great reputation in the town.

“We brought our children here and now they’re bringing their children,” she said. “People don’t want to go to a bigger bookstore.”

Wisen says there have been some people to show interest in buying the store, but nobody who has been real enthusiastic. He has posted the sale on sites like craigslist.com, and has run ads in the Seattle Times and other local publications. He hopes the store will be sold and maintained.

“I would hope they would keep it open,” Wisen said. “It’s been there a long time.”

Wisen says the store has a large customer base but if it does not sell soon, he will have to close it down. “I think they [customers] will be disappointed.”

Floyd says there are many customers who come in “just to chat.”

“They like a place where they can come in and the employees know their names.”

If the store were to sell, Floyd strongly feels it would be updated.

“It will be modernized,” she said. “That is probably a good thing, actually.”

Floyd foresees there being computers involved and maybe some online sales and purchases from and by the store. She also hopes they would implement things such as “book readings, author signings, and childrens’ story times.”

If you’re interested in purchasing this page in Burien’s history, contact Joe Wisen at [email protected] or phone him at (206) 246-2725.

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One Response to “Tales For Sale: Longtime Local Business Burien Books Is On The Market”
  1. Tess Mallory says:

    Great article! How sad that this wonderful piece of history may disappear! I hate to bother the nephew if I can’t be serious about the property, but wish the article had said how much the store is selling for. Maybe I could find someone to buy it! Hope I can find out!

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