Celebrate 50 Years with Us!

It’s finally (almost) here! Our Golden Jubilee, our 50th Anniversary as a Mercer Island landmark. A place where generations of families have walked through the doors and browsed for hours upon hours, year after year. Shopped for gifts, brought their kidsand then grandkidsto storytime and to romp in the playhouse in our kids' section. Where newcomers wander in days after moving to Mercer Island (or sometimes a few years in, we’re not judging) and are thrilled to find a thriving independent bookstore right on their doorstep. Where conversations between book lovers turn into stacks of recommendations. It’s been so delightful to meander down memory lane with Miriam in our 50 Years of Island Books series, and see how this iconic bookstore came to be, and meet the many wonderful people that have shaped it since 1973.

And now we are so pleased to invite you, the Island Books community, to join us in a celebration of Island Books on Saturday November 4th, from open ‘til close (9am to 6pm)!

50 Years of Island Books: Laurie Raisys

Laurie and Victor Raisys bought Island Books in July 2015 and became the fourth owners since the store opened in 1973. They are both accomplished Microsoft alumni, but don't let that fool you into thinking they've had an easy road. Underneath that busy exterior are community builders and devoted parents of four. For our final 50 Years of Island Books installment, I sat down with Laurie in the back of the store. Here’s our conversation:

Miriam: Let's start with your favorite book category.

Laurie: I’m a total fiction person. Not historical, but thrillers, current fiction and romance. I love messy, dysfunctional families — I am a Lisa Jewell person all the way.

Miriam: Ha! OK. Tell me about your proudest accomplishment.

Laurie: Making it through COVID. It was so incredibly hard and I felt the pressure as an owner with employees, responsible for their livelihood. I remember seeing all these bookstores closing, watching it happen on social media and talking with Victor about being so sad and scared about what would happen. Nobody knew what was going to happen. And then Victor wrote that [Laurie points at a sign on the wall in the back room] and stopped by the bookstore and gave it to me. It says “Believe, make it happen. We will make it.” And we did.

Miriam: That sign is from during COVID.

Laurie: That's from during COVID.

50 Years of Island Books: The Staff

This 50 Years of Island Books series is about to reach the grand finale, because November is only a few weeks away and it's almost time to pop the champagne. Since April, I've talked to booksellers and owners from years past, sales reps, and many beloved local authors to paint a picture of what Island Books has meant to the community and how it evolved into the place it is today.

Now, I'm turning my attention to the people who show up hour to hour, in the here and now, to make the store the living, breathing wonderland that it is and will be in 2023 and beyond. On a rainy Monday when the store was closed for cleaning, I pulled them aside for some heart-to-hearts.

So many times we come in and say a quick hi to these friendly booksellers, the face of a familiar place we know and love, but it's rare we think about who they are as people and what they think about as they work. I've known many of them for years and have watched the staff evolve. From my little perch, I can honestly say that they put so much love into what they do, and that our island community wouldn't be the same without them.

Side note: since I already cornered the longest tenured Island Books employee for a separate blog, Cindy only makes a tiny (and fun) appearance via Caitlin in this post. If you want to learn more about Cindy, click here.

To our Island Books booksellerswe love and appreciate all of you. Truly. Now let's get into it.


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