REDMOND — A love of books is always the key job requirement if one wants to run a bookstore. It suits Brandon Weimer well.
Weimer, owner of Herringbone Books in Redmond, was an avid reader, he says, after being read to by his grandmother and encouraged by his parents.
“It’s always been a boyhood dream of mine to own a bookstore,” Weimer said. “Growing up in LaGrande I spent countless hours in the local library.”
But it’s not only reading, Weimer likes to compare notes on books with customers. During this interview he had to stop and chat with visitors several times about what book they were reading and why and listen to their recommendations. It’s all part of running a community bookstore — engaging with your customer.
Weimer, 45, and his wife, Alayna, purchased Herringbone three years ago this past February. The previous owner was Kaci Aslamov. The store was originally Paulina Springs bookstore and had two locations. Aslamov changed the name to Herringbone, which is a type of book binding style.
“My wife and I were in the bookstore just prior to Christmas when we just asked Kaci if she would be willing to sell. She thought about it for a while. In February, the next year, she called me up and we made an offer.”
Weimer, who has lived all over Oregon, said he had a career in business and after settling in Redmond, he and his wife became foster parents. They adopted their first foster child as their son and have been fostering other children for about 8 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into their plans, as it did with many small businesses. But it wasn’t all bad.
“The best way I can describe it, was, it was one of our worst years, and was one of our best years,” he said.
In the best of circumstances, operating a small business is always a struggle; toss in a pandemic and there’s a lot of sleepless nights, Weimer said.
However, book sales started to climb as people were quarantining at home, reading more, and needed more school books to engage their children while out of the classroom.
“That was offset by the fact that publishers back East, had shut down and there was a dearth of new books, recent releases, available,” he said.
So, the store started to research related books people might enjoy, if they couldn’t find that “best seller” at the moment.
Further, Weimer started a home delivery service since the store was basically closed.
Then the online orders started to spike.
Libraries were closed to the public, as well.
“When the libraries closed, I said, a world without books is not a world I wanted to be part of,” he noted.
“I felt a responsibility to meet that need for books. I could help alleviate the stress of an elderly person who can’t go out or the mother with three kids stuck at home with the schools closed.” He started offering games and puzzles for people to enjoy and pass the time. He recently added vinyl records to his collection in the 2,500 square-foot-building.
The store offers curbside services and drop-offs for orders. And, partly because of that, Weimer saw his client base grow.
“In a roundabout way, it may have been one of the best years for us,” he said. “We don’t survive without community support, however. It is a reflection back on the community that said, ‘COVID is not going to take our little bookstore.’”
Being an optimist, 2021 is going to be a fantastic year, said Weimer. Some books that weren’t published last year are starting to circulate. Authors who weren’t touring, are conducting online chats.
His favorite books? Right now it’s nonfiction, biographies and classics, he said.
But the real joy is he gets to talk with fellow readers.
“I always ask, ‘what book kept you to until 2 in the morning reading?’ Those, I will 100% order.”
“Books are one of the threads that connect us. If you had a loss of a loved one or lost a pet, a conversation about a book can help them. That’s magic of books.”