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M. Coy Books turns the page

I’d like to think it could turn out otherwise, but the large — and dare I say it, tasteful — Lost Our Lease sign says M. Coy Books near the Market in downtown Seattle is going away at the end of February. That marks the end of 18 years for the comfy space that felt like an extended reading room and espresso corner. “Though it just seems like yesterday,” says one of the owners, Michael Coy. “We’ve ridden through amazing times downtown.” The city that loves books doesn’t have an independent, general interest bookseller in its heart anymore. The downtown-ish option is now Elliott Bay Books, with some fine used sellers in between. I’ll miss the place I always went to for the two Michaels, Coy and his partner, Brasky. There was no information counter, unless you counted Michael Coy. He not only knew instantly if a book was in stock, but would helpfully peer over his glasses with a look to let you know if it was worth reading. So what killed M. Coy? Not the Amazonian suspect you might think. In fact, the dot-com boom was the heyday of its success. “It was fantastic,” says Michael. “A dot-com would start up and someone would say ‘I think we should have a library!’ and swoop in. We did very well then.” It was more the grind of time and increasing area rents. For years, the neighborhood was in a perpetual state of about-to-happen with a rumored Saks, Ritz-Carlton and ACT theater just around the developmental corner. Instead, Coy remembers a long period as the epi-center of the crack epidemic, with three murders on the block in one week. Competition for the lunch crowd opened up with Borders and Barnes and Noble. Now, when it looks like the hour has come ’round at last for Pike/Pine, a new landlord has come in and brought the rents to market level. The stores that can make it are likely the chains, not the old stand-bys; and poof, a bit of the city character evaporates. Bookstores, single-owner stores of character, need patrons above all, but also neighborhoods that want them, and occasionally fight to keep them around. Coy says “some neighborhoods are protective, like upper Queen Anne, Magnolia, Bainbridge. They’re doing more than saying ‘how nice it is.'” Downtown Seattle could use some of that love right now, before we lose it. Meanwhile, enjoy the sale prices.

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