The Los Angeles Times asks that question today in an article entitled Powell’s turns the page.
Michael Powell is passing the operations of Portland’s iconic and beloved bookstore on to his daughter, Emily, over the next few years. After college and several years living and working in San Francisco, she has returned to Portland, where she grew up hanging around the store (lucky kid!). But she’s just now learning the nuts and bolts of the business.
On her return, she made the standard hourly wage in the company’s Internet department. She has worked in marketing and business development, and assisted with the establishment of a new 32,500-square-foot store, heavy on children’s books, in nearby Beaverton. Last year she became director of used books.
Most family-owned businesses don’t survive the transition from one generation to the next. But some do. And Powell’s has a special place in the small world of mammoth independent bookstores:
Between staff, stock and its online muscle, Powell’s looms over other beloved independent stores such as Denver’s Tattered Cover and New York City’s Strand.
And Emily believes the trick to survival “will be maintaining the culture of the store . . . and preparing for the unknown.”
I, and bibliophiles in Portland and elsewhere, hope she is right.
I am trying to figure out what Emily could possibly do to stand in the way of Powell’s success. It seems that all she would have to do is leave things the same, plus her dad is only in retirement right? He will be around as an advisor I’m sure.
veganfabulous – I agree. I figure the author of the article felt the story would be more compelling if it implied more risk than there really is.
Even the concluding paragraph of the article makes point that we probably have less to worry about Powell’s than most stores in similar situations: “But of all the stores to worry about, Powell’s would be down on the list.””
Vegan, one could say just leave it alone. However Powells sure has changed a ton in the last 15 years. Plus look at the neighborhood now. I rarely drive there, however competing with people actually living in that area is tough to say the least.
Plus what happened to all of the used books? I feel like 10% of their inventory is used now. I still don’t know what changed there.
Remember when you could get your car fixed then pop into Powell’s while the oil was changed at the local garage? Funny how that area once a turd is now a pearl.
We’ll have to see how the “posh-ness” of Powell’s holds up over time. Still the best bookstore I have ever been in.
Nick – One thing I miss (that wasn’t unique to Powell’s, but obviously they always had the best selection): the used books used to be priced at *1/2 the original retail price*, as marked on the book.