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For Some Businesses, It's Not All Fun and Games

“Baseball and soccer fans might come in to buy a book. Football fans come in to use the bathroom.”

Peter Aaron told me that, and he should know, since he is the owner of the soon-to-be-relocated Elliott Bay Book Company, where baseball and soccer fans in Seattle sometimes browse, and into which football fans in Seattle often desperately stumble on their way to and from games.

“Raiders fans are the worst,” Peter Aaron said. “People dressed as Goths and zombies, drunk at nine in the morning, nobody wants to get into the middle of that traffic.”

This is not to say that if it were not for the proximity of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, the Elliott Bay Book Company would be flush. The crowds passing through on their way to watch baseball have sometimes been a problem, and the Pioneer Square neighborhood has been slipping for some time. Beyond that, the Elliott Bay, like all independent bookstores, has been pressured by the chains and the internet. Still, Aaron could have done without the added strain on his bottom line resulting from the presence in his neighborhood of tens of thousands of non-book buying football fans during at least eight fall and winter weekends.

“Fortunately, our team has not been in the playoffs,” he said this week. “But this Sunday, December 20th, five days before Christmas, the Seahawks are home, playing Tampa Bay. That will cost us between thirty and fifty thousand dollars.”

Why? Because the football fans will not only take up all the parking spaces, according the Peter Aaron, they’ll also scare potential book-buyers off the streets.

Unlike a lot of independent bookstores, the Elliott Bay Book Company will survive, at least for now. Peter Aaron is moving his operation to a neighborhood where proximity to two college campuses should help. There, he’ll try to re-establish the ambiance provided by an extraordinarily large and eclectic collection of books, a welcoming venue for visiting writers to read their work, and a comfortable café where nobody seemed to be in a hurry to finish a cup of coffee or a discussion.

As somebody who cares about our games and loves old, independent book stores, I’m rooting for The Elliott Bay in its new location…though “rooting for” might be the wrong phrase to use in this tale that I trust will no longer be a sports story.

This program aired on December 16, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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