50 years of bookselling adventures at Moonraker Books

50 years of bookselling adventures at Moonraker Books

neighborhood reads

LANGLEY, Island County – Whidbey Island has long been a favorite vacation destination for Seattle residents looking for a long, quiet weekend. But many longtime visitors to Whidbey fail to understand how big Whidbey Island actually is. Tourists arriving on the ferry from Mukilteo will often stay south of the island near the town of Clinton, while people driving through Deception Pass will likely stay north in the Oak Harbor area.

But it takes over an hour to drive from one end of Whidbey to the other. The island is huge, and even frequent travelers can find new towns, parks, and shops to explore if they let themselves get a little lost.

About 51 years ago, a newlywed couple named Glenn and Josh Hauser got lost in Whidbey hoping to find their next adventure. Glenn was a retired military pilot. “I picked him up from a restaurant in Corpus Christi, Texas,” Josh laughs. She explains, “We came here with the idea of ​​flipping houses before people flipped houses.”

The couple camped on bluff lane and headed south, where they encountered an empty storefront in the small town of Langley, near the center of the island. “We had no experience with books, but we decided that what we loved was reading,” says Josh, and they decided to try selling books.

For research, the pair interviewed the late owner of the beloved University Village bookstore, Kay’s Bookmark, and a few other book industry professionals. Glenn built the fixtures and the husband got to work decorating the shelves and filling them with books. They decided to name their store Moonraker Books (after the big square sail on a big sailboat, not a James Bond novel) and on June 16, 1972, they impulsively decided to open the doors and open the big door. “The rest was just the most amazing adventure imaginable,” says Josh.

Moonraker Books is one of the oldest bookstores in Washington state, and its appeal is clear: It’s a bright, beautiful, well-appointed space on Main Road to Langley, a charming town that grew up primarily around the bookstores in the center.

It didn’t take long for Josh to realize that selling books isn’t so much about books as it is about building a community. “People who love books are usually very interesting,” she says. “And not only do people love being around books, they love being around people who are writers.”

The Hausers ran the store together until Glenn’s death in 2012. “I wish I could call him back from the dead to fix a few things around the store, but he’s terribly uncooperative,” says Josh.

Josh is still standing court behind the Moonraker counter, joking and joking, gossiping and urging newcomers to make sure they check out the store’s enormous second floor, with its vast novelty and children’s sections. The fun shows there bring together a variety of books on “Women We Wish We Could Meet – Some Reality, Some Fantasy” and the Paris collection “Books for Seasoned Francophonists”. Locals and returning tourists alike visit to check out the latest releases and ask for recommendations from the store’s five-person staff.

“It is a very convenient place. This isn’t a quiet bookstore we’re in,” Josh explains. “We don’t speak in whispers.” That’s right: Moonraker is not a muffled cathedral of literature. Laughter and conversation echo throughout the store. Strangers engage in spontaneous discussions about the cookbooks on display, sharing recipes and stories.

Fifty years of selling books is a rare achievement, and Josh has been honored time and time again for her contributions to Langley and Bookselling this year. Mayor of Langley and City Council have officially designated June Josh Hauser Appreciation Month, with a huge ceremony and citywide celebration of Josh and her library.

And this month, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation presented Josh with its first-ever award for Legacy on Main Street. Washington Main Street executive Brian Durham recognized Josh as “a welcome camper for Langley, a small business mentor, and a happy person who doesn’t take things too seriously.”

“Josh has created spontaneous social groups to work alongside other merchants, for the purpose of welcoming new people to town, and maybe also just for fun,” Durham said in her victory speech.

For her part, Josh credits the people of Langley with the success of Moonraker. “I couldn’t live without the locals,” she says. “They take the time to buy from me rather than from the big boxes or other players.”

Josh says the how-to section, which contains books on woodworking and other crafts, has shrunk over the past decade, but she was happy to see demand for cookbooks increase at the same time. She says that Whidbey authors, including poet David White, often stop by. The shop stocks a wide range of local writers, which range in subject matter from beginners’ geology guides to poems to the art of walking.

Ask Josh about her favorite memories of selling books over the past half century and how loud she was. She says she can now appreciate the humor behind the dubious distinction that Moonraker first plagiarized before the store opened, when a woman with a backpack wandered around and helped herself while she and Glenn were busy building the space outside. You remember the midnight Harry Potter movie releases and the store’s Halloween celebrations. She loves that the children she once helped pick out books are now bringing their children and grandchildren back to Moonraker to get their first books.

“I had so many good moments,” she says. “Some funny, some tender—you know how it is. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it, honey.”

What do Moonraker Books customers read?

Unlike most independent bookstores, which traditionally reserve book purchases for one or two members of staff, every bookseller at Moonraker Books purchases inventory from the store, giving them a pride of ownership that shows in the organization of the store.

The five Moonraker booksellers came together to offer their recommendations as a team via email, starting with “Two Indispensable Guides to Whidbey” highlighting the “history, geology, sustainability, and delight” of Island County: “Hiking Closer to Home: Whidbey, Hidalgo and the Gomez Islands” by Marybeth Crandall, Jack Hart, and “Reaching the Water’s Edge in the Whidbey and Camano Islands.”

Whidbey’s poetry fans have been raving about “The Poetry of Being: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems,” and booksellers are saying, “Which of the collections of Whidbey’s esteemed poets David White or Judith Adams” is a bestseller.

Books about books sell very well at Moonraker, with Grant Snider’s collection of book cartoons, “I’ll Judge You by Your Bookshelf,” proving to be “the perfect gift for book lovers of all ages.” Current events are also in demand, and staff say Nina Totenberg’s memoir “Dinner with Ruth” has proven to be “a must-read for fans of RBG and anyone who has enjoyed Totenberg’s coverage of the Supreme Court.”

Finally, the staff lovingly notes that Moonraker owner Josh Hauser had Gerald Durrell’s 1956 memoir of life on Corfu, “My Family and Other Animals,” as a featured selection “on her staff, pick shelf for as long as anyone can remember.” To order this and other books, customers should visit the Moonraker Library page or call the store at 360-221-6962.

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