Powell’s Books isn’t just the largest indie book shop, it is incredibly supportive of writers and of those who love to read. Located in Portland, Oregon, the Powell family owns and runs five locations. This Summer Break, I was able to visit two of the five.
Powell’s City of Books
The primary shop location is downtown Portland, which isn’t at all as charming as it sounds. The store is several stories of books, spread across an entire block. To say that it’s massive is an understatement. To say that it’s really the only reason to go downtown is also an understatement.
Truly, I found it overwhelming to be in the City of Books. Though I’ve lived in cities like Seattle and San Francisco, and (surprisingly) felt quite relaxed visiting New York City, I do feel more at home in my small European town of Homburg. The extraordinarily large bookstore was for me too much.
That did not, however, prevent me from getting a ton of books while I was there. And it also didn’t stop me from spending hours looking around and trying not to get lost.
But the best time in Portland was on Hawthorne, my favorite street in the city.
Powell’s Books on Hawthorne
What was much more my speed was the second Powell’s shop that I visited with my family. It was cozier, in a lovely part of the city that I really enjoyed, on Hawthorne. We spent a good portion of the day there, and then we crossed the street to watch a movie at the Bagdad Theater, which is owned by the McMenamins.
I also really loved the vibe around Hawthorne. There were street musicians, charity fundraisers, artists and even a street poet offering to write a personalized poem on his typewriter for a small fee. There were fun shops and cozy cafes and when I go back to Portland, I’ve no doubt I will spend considerably more time on Hawthorne.
The Bagdad Theater
The Bagdad Theater is a special place, an old theater fully restored and now run as a theater where you can eat a full meal, McMenamin style. If you’re unfamiliar with McMenamin restaurants, just think: quality pub grub. I cannot eat gluten or dairy, but the staff made me feel not only Not Difficult, but normal even. I was able to order a pizza that fit my diet and I was able to eat it while watching Ant Man get kicked around by bad guys.
It was one of the best days ever: books, movie and pizza in a fantastic, truly unique ambiance. Fun fact about the Bagdad: Adele performed there before she became super famous!
If you only have one day to spend in Portland, go to Hawthorne.