Brick & Mortar Books opened earlier this year in Redmond Town Center. It’s run by the Ullom family — three generations help out — and you can feel the good vibes when you step in.
Haven’t you always dreamed of owning an independent bookstore? Of spending your days in a cozy book-lined space that smells of coffee and fresh paper and contentment, chatting up authors and recommending great books to your friends and neighbors?
“I think half the people I know have had that dream,” said Dan Ullom last week. (Hand raised, here.) He was speaking from — you guessed it — the brand-new bookstore that he now owns with his family. Brick & Mortar Books opened earlier this summer in Redmond Town Center, in a space that formerly held an Eddie Bauer store.
While they don’t sell coffee (no need, you can get it just steps away), the rest of the picture seems just right: an airy room, comfy armchairs, shelves and shelves of sparkling volumes. One of a tiny number of Eastside indie bookstores specializing in new books (it joins BookTree in Kirkland and Island Books on Mercer Island), Brick & Mortar hopes to become what the best bookstores are: a hub for its community.
Ullom, who taught for 14 years at Cascade Ridge Elementary in Sammamish, said he’d long imagined this moment. “A lot of what teachers do is getting kids inspired to read,” he said. But the initial spark came from his mother, Tina Ullom, a recently retired school librarian at Rachel Carson Elementary. She read a 2015 New York Times story about the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” author Jeff Kinney, who opened a bookstore in his adopted hometown of Plainville, Massachusetts. “What’s the thing that everybody loves and treasures the most?” Kinney said in the story. “It’s a bookstore.”
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“It was such a moving article,” Tina remembered, thinking that such an endeavor seemed like “the one thing I would come out of retirement for.” With the support of Tina’s husband, John, a former environmental engineer who’s now a consultant for resource companies, and Dan’s wife, Heidi, a pediatric oncology nurse at Seattle Children’s hospital, the dream became a reality.
The Ulloms did their homework: studying the business, attending workshops and conventions, talking to other local bookstore owners (all of whom, they said, have been wonderfully supportive). They spent time…