ArtSEA: “Fine and rare” finds at a new Pioneer Square bookshop

The store welcomes bookworms and sports fans alike. Plus, an award-winning, Seattle-set movie about immigration and gentrification.

two people on a sidewalk clean the storefront window of a bookstore

Jeffrey Long and son Finian clean the shop window for the opening of Long Bros. Books in Pioneer Square. (Daniel Spils)

On a rainy morning last week, I pulled up in Pioneer Square and knocked on the glass door of a classic storefront at 400 Occidental Avenue South. A decal on the still-papered windows read Long Bros. Fine & Rare Books, which was on the precipice of opening to the public.

A new local bookstore is something to celebrate, and as a longtime follower of Long Brothers’ Instagram page, I was eager to see the online business come to life in brick and mortar. 

In this case the phrase is literal. The new shop is housed in an 1892 brick building that was formerly home to the Washington Shoe Company (whose faded name is still visible on the facade), supplier of boots to Klondike gold rushers. Now the location serves customers mining for unique literary nuggets. 

I entered to find proprietor Jeffrey Long and son Finian putting final touches on the warm, contemporary space. The elder was considering matters both practical (a front-door blind) and fanciful (how to make the window display enticing). He had visions of an “animated” installation involving a conveyor and motors, or maybe a “live mannequin” reading a book in a comfortable chair with a lamp. “Is a live mannequin a human?” I asked. He confessed he was thinking perhaps his daughter would be game, though had yet to run the idea by her.

As expected, full bookshelves are the primary furnishings, but there are also low cases for special displays (see the Andy Warhol book collection, including a T-shirt featuring the artist in front of the Space Needle), which can be rolled aside for readings and other events. At the back, a small bar will soon serve beer, wine and snacks (bar hours will be dictated by seasons and stadium schedules, but generally open at 3 p.m.).

While Long says he doesn’t expect a rush of sports fans, he posits that sometimes his bookstore bar might be the only place to find an empty seat for a pre-game drink. “Maybe sports fans can subsidize the book shop,” he said. And who knows, maybe on their way out, a Mariners fan would buy a marine-themed book like The Law of the Sea (1950). Or maybe, in anticipation of garlic fries, The Genetics of the Potato (1969).

Previously selling only through online platforms and antiquarian book fairs, Long Bros. now exists in brick and mortar. (Daniel Spils)

Established in 1996, Long Bros. specializes in Pacific Northwest Americana, along with fine art books, art and artifacts. Long (who wrote occasional articles for Crosscut from 2010 to 2012) told me his appreciation for Northwest history started at age 14.

He remembers his grandparents having two books: “the Bible and Skid Road,” the latter by Murray Morgan. Reading the iconic portrait of Seattle sparked a lifelong interest for the locally born bookseller, who went on to study literature at the University of Washington.

Long has a special talent for finding delightfully odd vintage books with funny titles, whether intentional or accidental. “I really like the quirky and weird,” he said, pointing out copies of Why Bring That Up (a 1936 guide to solving seasickness); Ditcherology: The Science of Ditching (1919); and Philosophy for Lowbrows, “By One of Them.” There’s also a section of titles made amusing in combination with the author’s name, including Textile Fabrics (1923) by Elizabeth Dyer and Motorcycling for Beginners (1979) by Geoff Carless.

You could get a crick in your neck from reading down the spines in search of the next gem, such as Let’s Kill Uncle (1963), by a Vancouver, B.C., woman who wrote under the pen name Rohan O’Grady. Long pointed out that the dust jacket — another of his niche interests — was illustrated by Edward Gorey. 

A first edition with a coveted cover, Let’s Kill Uncle will cost you $275. But Long emphasizes he carries books at all price points, “from a cheesy Sonics gear catalog to a first-edition Edgar Allen Poe.” 

As I walked around the bookshelves, I noted many intriguing non-books as well: art prints, including a proposed architectural plan for Suzzallo Library (with a full bell tower); a movie poster proclaiming “Hooker! Fuzz! Junk! Rumble!” (“I love 1950s juvenile delinquency,” Long said); a collection of works by Aleut artist John Hoover and a roulette wheel.

“Since I was a teenager I’ve wanted to be a shopkeeper and traffic in things I love,” Long explained. “Why not have fun with brick and mortar?”

L-R: Seattle actors Natnael Mebrahtu and Joseph Smith in Zia Mohajerjasbi’s “Know Your Place.” (SIFF)

More things to do and see in Seattle

The Seattle International Film Festival ended last week, but this weekend brings a chance to see a past award winner on the big screen. Set and shot in Seattle, Know Your Place (SIFF Cinema Uptown, May 31 - June 6) had its world premiere at SIFF in 2022, where it won the Golden Space Needle for Best Film. 

Written and directed by Iranian American filmmaker Zia Mohajerjasbi, who grew up in South Seattle, Know Your Place is a pensive, gorgeously shot film that follows a frustrating day in the life of Eritrean American teenager Robel Haile (played by local actor Joseph Smith, who along with his co-star Natnael Mebrahtu were students at Garfield High during filming).

At the surface level, the plot concerns Robel’s struggle to get a large, overstuffed suitcase across town on a deadline despite endless obstacles. But the unwieldy luggage is merely a metaphor for the burdens carried by the young man, who has just lost his father, and whose immigrant family is struggling to make it in a swiftly gentrifying city.

Despite its somber tone, the film is awash in warm yellow hues: peach drapes, caramel prescription bottles, gold lamps, fall leaves, the mustard suitcase. “I call the film a love letter and a lament,” Mohajerjasbi said in a 2022 interview with Crosscut. (Read the full interview.) 

For another display of young local talent, check out the University of Washington’s MFA thesis exhibition. This year the show of graduate work will take place on the seventh floor of the RailSpur building in Pioneer Square (home to many satellite exhibits during Seattle Art Fair). The show of painting, sculpture and video by eight up-and-coming artists is called Another Day at the Orifice (May 30 - June 6) and explores “the orifice as aperture” and “mouth-making.”

We’re halfway through our artist reveals for Black Arts Legacies: Season 3! If you haven’t yet had the chance, check out the profiles of cellist Gretchen Yanover, radio pioneer Robert L. Scott, muralist Moses Sun, actor/director Tee Dennard and painter Gwendolyn Knight, each penned by BAL writer Jas Keimig

And tomorrow (May 31), we unveil the first of our BAL video profiles, directed by filmmaker Tifa Tomb. All five will be broadcast on Cascade PBS (formerly KCTS) on Fridays (May 31 - June 28) and streamable on Thanks for tuning in!

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