Smith Family Bookstore has existed as a campus icon for 45 years, giving students the option of walking an extra block down 13th Avenue to look for decent-priced textbooks or a novel for class. But that will no longer be an option.
The family that owns the business announced recently that the campus store is in the process of closing and will integrate its remaining inventory into its downtown location at 525 Willamette Street.
Evon Smith, second-generation owner of Smith Family Bookstore, says the main reason for change is because of the chance to expand the Willamette location. Smith owns the Willamette Street building, and a tenant recently left for a better space — leaving her with room to fill.
“It was an opportunity to bring the campus business into the downtown store,” Smith says. “We are about two to three weeks to having the new space downtown open.” About a third of the campus store is already packed up.
Part of the draw for students visiting the bookstore on 13th was its collection of used textbooks. Although Smith Family Books has been selling textbooks online for 10 years, the closing of the campus location will shift its textbook inventory online. Smith says they were one of the few independent bookstores that still stocked physical textbooks.
“We are finding that more and more students locally shop online anyway. The concept of having a retail store to serve them didn’t really make sense,” Smith says.
In her years running the bookstore, Smith has seen students become more mobile, moving fluidly around the community instead of staying in the university bubble. Despite the Willamette store being farther from campus, it is still accessible by bus and biking.
Additionally, Smith has seen an increase in students in the Willamette bookstore in recent years, especially since Lane Community College now operates a sizeable campus downtown.
“That really brought students through our doors right away,” she says. “The store grew out of the idea that students come from all over the area.”
During this transition, Smith doesn’t plan to lay off any employees. One of her current goals is to bring everyone on board. Some employees will work at the Willamette store and others will work for the online business.
Although Smith is looking forward to revamping and expanding the space on Willamette, she is sad to leave the original neighborhood of the bookstore and the history that it carries for her and other employees.
Smith’s parents opened the store on Alder Street in 1974 in a small building next to Sy’s Pizza. Once the store grew, they built it a new location essentially across the street on 13th Avenue, expanding several other times.
“It’s really sad for us to leave that neighborhood,” Smith says. “I have employees that have been working for this business for 20 to 30 years. We have a lot of history over there.”