Business & Development, Cottage Grove

Kalapuya Books a ‘literarty’ haven in historic ‘Grove

Betsy Hartzell is in her element at eclectic Kalapuya Books, which she and husband Hal own and operate in Cottage Grove’s historic downtown. Gini Davis/The Creswell Chronicle

Perhaps one key to Kalapuya Books’ 22 successful years is that owners Betsy and Hal Hartzell sell what they love, and love selling from their charming historic building at 637 E Main St.
The shop’s selection of mostly-used adult and children’s books; local art, quilts, prayer flags, ceramics and jewelry; seeds; vintage and ”found” items is eclectic and – in Betsy’s description – quirky.
”We carry a full spectrum of literary fiction; lots of books on ecology, farming and the environment; and I’ve got a big interest in local history, poetry and transformational spirituality, so we have that,” Betsy said. Lately, too, ”I’ve been having fun with poetry,” Betsy said, citing Northwest father-and-son poets William and Kim Stafford.
Hal himself authored ”Birth of a Cooperative: Hoedads, Inc., a Worker Owned Forest Labor Co-op” (1987) and ”The Yew Tree: A Thousand Whispers, Biography of a Species” (1990).
”’Birth of a Cooperative’ is an oral history of the birth of a forest labor cooperative in the early ’70s, that went on and on and on,” Betsy said. ”It actually brought millions of dollars into the area, and thousands of people – mostly college-educated – from all over the country were involved in it because at the time, people were searching for a different way of being and there was legislation that said we had to be replanting (after logging).”
Along with her passion for books, consigning local artists’ work is ”very rewarding,” Betsy said. ”And one of my pleasures is to arrange art and found treasures in nooks everywhere in the store, so you never know what you’re going to find.”
Partners in their historic building with the owners of the adjacent Axe & Fiddle Public House (a unique aspect of their partnership is open interior flow between the businesses), the Hartzells take pride in work that uncovered huge skylights shuttered by dropped ceilings, constructed balconies to fully utilize the again-soaring space, scraped linoleum from original Douglas fir floors, liberated the corbelled brick façade hidden beneath garish tile and board-and-batten, and otherwise restored the 1908 building’s character.
The couple even lives in an upstairs apartment. ”There are skylights up there, too,” Betsy said, ”and of course there’s the pub with music down, but it’s really well-insulated.”
And while it’s generally true that storefront bookstores are struggling against online retail giants like Amazon, Betsy points out that ”it’s not just about retail” when doing business in a small community – particularly in a historic building in a historic district like downtown Cottage Grove. There’s a communal, human element to it – one that makes Kalapuya Books as genuinely a ”living room” as the couple’s living space above it.
”To actually get to know people, to have that history, that continuity and a chance for a really high quality of life because of that shared community is a privilege,” Betsy said. ”It’s a privilege to be able to connect with people who have a particular interest, a joy in seeing what they choose, and I adore when young kids who still read come in – often with their grandparents, which is nice to see.”
And so, having etched nearly a quarter-century of its own into the history and character of its more-than-century-old building, Kalapuya Books continues, its owners looking to the future while cherishing the past.
”I want to be open to change, to find new ways of giving what makes us thrive,” Betsy said. ”I’m at the age where I’m interested in transitional times, looking at options and seeing how it goes.”



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