New bookshop comes with potstickers and old-fashioneds

Literary storefront opens in beloved cocktail lounge

Posted 3/2/22

Port Townsend has welcomed a new bookstore to its ranks. Locals will be familiar with its timeless and fantastical setting, nestled in a notoriously cozy corner of The Castle.

Over the past couple …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

New bookshop comes with potstickers and old-fashioneds

Literary storefront opens in beloved cocktail lounge

Owner and publisher, Conner Bouchard-Roberts, adjusts shelves in his new bookshop.
Owner and publisher, Conner Bouchard-Roberts, adjusts shelves in his new bookshop.
Leader photo by Audrey Rogers
Posted

Port Townsend has welcomed a new bookstore to its ranks. Locals will be familiar with its timeless and fantastical setting, nestled in a notoriously cozy corner of The Castle.

Over the past couple of months, Conner Bouchard-Roberts has been adapting The Green Room, a small, bay-facing barroom on the first floor of Manresa Castle, to embrace more literary pursuits.

The bookstore came to fruition after Roberts successfully carved a place in the “micro-press” publishing world here in Port Townsend. Since 2017, Winter Texts has worked closely with local big-names like Ursula K. Le Guin, Dylan James Quarles, and Ross Gay, publishing and making available their locally-based prose.

Theirs and other local writers’ work is available for purchase in the bar along with cocktails and authentic Southeast Asian bites that stand out with flare and punny names. Those interested in stimulating conversation can wander up the hill to join Winter Texts for weekly and monthly events that bolster Port Townsend’s literary community with plenty of levity and humor.

Roberts has been lead bartender at The Castle for more than two years, watching his brother, Cameron Roberts, transform its various rooms into cohesively unique spaces that muddy the past and present.

In October, Conner turned to Cameron and mentioned the idea of blending his two worlds.

“He looked back at me and said, ‘go for it,’” Conner laughed.

He credits their success so far on their relationship; “[we have] mutual trust, both as colleagues and as brothers, that we’re not gonna screw it up,” Conner said.

Through bigger, subsequent conversations, Cameron helped Conner flesh out ideas, and ultimately gave him the space to explore what it means to sell books from the bar.

Conner began by dredging up shelves from other rooms in The Castle, bringing some from home, and even building one himself. The process of filling them and curating the space has been ongoing.

When asked why he started the bookshop in the first place, Conner let out yet another of his infectious laughs and gave a simple answer book-lovers will understand: “Who doesn’t want to start a bookshop?”

It was a “perfect meeting of opportunity to create a space for literary gatherings and a cultural spot to celebrate books and thinking and conversation. And there’s no other spot I’ve been to where you can just hang out in the bookstore,” Conner laughed again. It’s a “perfect storm of events,” he said.

And it is. The space feels permanent and transcendent like a lens to the artistic dynamos of the 1920s and ‘30s.

The Castle itself holds wisdom in its years, but not without fickleness.

Conner said that’s the hardest part of the job.

“It’s an old building, no shortage of things that go wrong, between cleaning and patching and repairs. We kinda just have to be constantly on the ball,” he said.

The size of the space poses a challenge as well, being beautiful but snug.

“It’s not like we can break down a wall,” Conner said.

The bar itself has years and a story. Originally from San Francisco, California, it graced a hotel in the 1870s and was forgotten in the scuffle of expansion.

Discovered years later in a basement, it was shipped to Manresa in the 1980s. Its grand curves and stained-glass features overhead expertly compliment the The Green Room’s intimacy.

Conner appreciates that his bookstore is tied to that space and intends to keep it there indefinitely.

“The existing nature of the space is what gives shapes to form and you’re kind of in concert with that,” he said.

For now, the Roberts and The Castle are inundated with high volumes of customers, which is bittersweet as it more or less allows the bookshop to fade into the background.

Conner hopes to find a way to fix that.

“It’s mostly been about trying to work on having people notice that it is also a bookstore and they can browse as well as get drinks,” he said.

“The first month was obviously slow as far as book sales go, the end of December was better, January was good, even though we were closed for a bit. As far as the rubric for understanding a bookstore, it’s becoming more successful.”

Conner also credits his coworkers at The Castle for their participation in this endeavor.

“The main part of the help is the bartending staff at The Castle. Everyone has been very adaptable and excited, working with me while I figure [it] out, my brother helping find the spirit of making it work instead of being a gimmick,” he said.

He’s pleased with the learning process and doesn’t feel the need to expand too far, acknowledging the space the other bookstores in town hold, Imprint and William James, and knowing they, along with Winter Texts, all hold individual roles in town as literary purveyors.

Their monthly events will also set them apart from the crowd by offering unpretentious platforms for discussion.

Conner loves seeing the pieces fall into place and that The Green Room “is a welcoming space for dialogue and community and book lovers,” he said.

Such events include the third Friday of every month, “Drunk Philosophy,” which Conner describes as a space where all education-levels are welcome to “dig into muddy, complex questions and play in the mud.” The last Sunday of every month holds a lax gathering of book lovers that meet simply for the joy of sitting around, talking about books. Plus, monthly semi-open mic readings are a place where writers can share their work in a supportive space.

Folks can keep their eyes out for upcoming publications from Winter Texts on the shelves in The Green Room, such as “The Beaver Valley Radish,” a bi-annual zine featuring contributions from farmers, writers, and artists, a tree companion for the Northwest, and a posthumously published book of essays from Ursula K. Le Guin.

Conner encourages folks to wander into The Green Room to commiserate and ask questions when he’s there bartending; Tuesday through Thursday, The Green Room is open seven days a week from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m.

Stop in and ask the bartenders for a recommendation, maybe they’ll point toward something out of your typical sightline. Find a comfy corner and throw the book you picked up on your tab.

“It’s probably the only bar in North America where you can do that,” Conner chuckled.

Comments

1 comment on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • omnisterra56

    And it is. The space feels permanent and transcendent like a lens to the artistic dynamos of the 1920s and ‘30s.

    The Castle itself holds wisdom in its years, but not without fickleness

    Oh, EDITOR!!!

    Friday, March 11 Report this