When Leah McNatt heard that Bookstore in capitals was for sale, she knew she had to do something. All caps had been a mainstay of the charming downtown Snohomish shopping district since 1998, and “I didn’t want to live in a town that didn’t have a bookstore,” McNatt says.
McNatt had considerable experience as a bookseller – first running a Barnes & Noble, then in an independent bookstore – but as a new mom she knew she couldn’t own and operate the business on her own; she needed a business partner. So McNatt asked his mother, Cheryl Cayford, if she wanted to go into business together. Ten years ago last month, Uppercase officially became a mother-daughter act.
Cayford and McNatt have just officially entered their second decade of selling used and new books to the large Snohomish community – first from Uppercase’s long-standing storefront on First Street, then from their current location in a log cabin on Second Street which Cayford says has been in use for decades. like “a model house for a cabin kit”.
McNatt admits that she was originally unconvinced of the idea of ââselling books in a cabin. âIt took me a few turns to see the promise of this – I don’t like stairs when I’m moving books up and down,â she says, adding, âbut of course there’s kind of fairy-tale feeling to her. (The fact that parking was always a challenge on busy First Street and that the all-caps cab had over a dozen parking spaces was also a big plus.)
Now, the rustic setting is intrinsic to the Uppercase Bookshop experience. âIt’s important to me that when people walk in, they feel like they’re stepping away from something and into something completely different,â McNatt says. Stepping into a log cabin lined with books inspires a sense of timelessness, an invitation to forget about the outside world and waste hours perusing the batteries.
Uppercase mainly sells used books with a few new titles mixed in, although they opened during the pandemic a digital storefront selling new books on bookshop.org which Cayford credits for helping the store stay afloat during the lockdown. The second floor of the cabin is also dedicated to the shop thriving online used book business, through which they send titles all over the world. But creating a satisfying browsing experience is still what Uppercase does best.
âYou don’t come to my store to find exactly what you’re looking for,â says McNatt. âYou come to find what must find you. Of course, you can place a special order with us and we can deliver exactly what you need, but that’s not what Uppercase is designed for.
Cayford, who worked in nonprofit management for 20 years before buying Uppercase with her daughter, fell in love with selling books. âEvery day is different and every day I am surrounded by a beautiful environment,â she says. “99.9% of the people who come in are so gracious, they’re glad we’re here, and usually the perfect book will find them.” ”
Dozens of people frequent the long-running monthly Uppercase Book Club, which just started meeting face-to-face again at the legendary Cabbage Patch restaurant in Snohomish this fall after a year and a half of Zooming through the pandemic. âJust to see people in real life and give them a hug – oh, my gosh that was just awesome,â Cayford says. The book club then meets on Wednesday January 26 at 7 p.m. to discuss Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel “The snow child“, about a seemingly magical girl who emerges from a snowstorm to live with a childless Alaskan couple.
Of course, local writers like Seattle novelist Jim Lynch and the late environmentalist Bob Heirman, including “Snohomish my beloved countyâCombines autobiography and tales of freshwater fishing, are eternal bestsellers at Uppercase. But McNatt says that over the decade she and her mother owned the store, they’ve seen Snohomish’s reading tastes change several times. In the early years, the store’s customers plunged more and more into the world of literary fiction. But McNatt says Gen Z browsers are leaning more towards the non-fiction side of the cabin.
“They buy old copies of engineering and philosophy books,” McNatt says of Uppercase’s young customers. âTheir tastes are varied and dynamic, and it’s absolutely wonderful.
What is it about non-fiction books that appeal to Gen Z? âI think it’s the tactile nature of books and the feeling that you actually own the information – it’s not going to go away when the power goes out,â McNatt speculates.
“Maybe it’s mushroom research, maybe it’s woodworking – whatever it is, the book gives you a good rest at night:” I have that information. It belongs to me. It’s on my shelf and I can access it whenever I want, âshe says. It’s exactly the sort of practical, sane, somewhat romantic thing one would expect from someone running a bookstore in a log cabin.
What do Uppercase Bookshop customers read?
Uppercase Bookshop co-owners Cayford and McNatt say the store’s large and loyal book club has found more than a few gems over the year. Cayford says that Zadie Smith’s first novel in 2000 “White teethWas an important story to reconsider at a time when colonization, race and class were central to everyone’s concerns. Washington State author J. Anderson Coats’ novel about the Civil War, about a young woman in Washington Territory, “The Many Thoughts of Miss Jane DemingIs “the ONLY book that 100% of the all-caps book club have wholeheartedly appreciated,” Cayford wrote in an email. “The raves were unanimous” during the Zoom Book Club discussion, she said – a happy thing, because unbeknownst to attendees, Coats attended the Book Club incognito for the first few minutes.
Lawyer and novelist James Shipman lives near Uppercase and its WWII drama, which takes place on Snohomish “It’s goodWas another book club favorite. “He interviewed many local veterans of that war for the novel,” Cayford says, and Shipman “assured book club attendees that every family conflict he had noted in the book he had experienced as a lawyer with clients.
“One of my favorite books for sale is’The night circus‘by Erin Morgenstern,’ says McNatt. âAnyone can read this book. There is nothing offensive about it, there is nothing vulgar, there is nothing really scary. But it’s dark and it’s wonderful and it’s joyful. And I don’t think I recommended it to a single person who didn’t like it.
When actor Viggo Mortensen was shooting the movie “Captain Fantastic” a few years ago in Index, he went through Uppercase Bookshop and was so charmed that he sent a full supply of titles from his publishing house, Perceval press, In capital letters. âWe’re one of four stores across the country that sell his books,â Cayford says. In return, âWe sent him an all-caps T-shirt, and we’re still waiting for him to wear it when he’s interviewed on TV.