Twenty years of treasures: Saying goodbye to Insatiables

Posted 6/10/21

Insatiable means you can never have enough.

“That’s the way that most people who collect books feel,” Karen Graham said.

Now, as the final pages are being turned for the small …

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Twenty years of treasures: Saying goodbye to Insatiables

Posted

Insatiable means you can never have enough.

“That’s the way that most people who collect books feel,” Karen Graham said.

Now, as the final pages are being turned for the small book store on Washington Street, that same quenchless feeling was palpable in the long line of patrons outside of Insatiables. 

They rounded the corner with empty bags and boxes to fill – hungry for the remnants of treasures inside, but also not ready to let the store go.

The Port Townsend staple for antique books, Insatiables was special to the community and all who visited.

Graham opened the store in 2000 with her passion for bound antiquities in tow.

She began selling antiques at the antique mall when she set her focus on old tomes.

“It just made me feel so good when someone bought a book,” she said.

“It was an entirely different feeling.”

She described the act of searching for, discovering, and collecting books as a romance.

An area that preserves, restores, and cherishes old things, Port Townsend – lined with its Victorian homes and coated in a timeless veneer – was the perfect home for a place like Insatiables, she explained.

Graham began selling vintage technical books that were written about plumbing and electricity, different things that would apply to the houses being restored in the area.

“I thought that it would be interesting for them to know how the plumbing and all was done at the time their house was built.”

Over the decades of business, Insatiables has offered patrons floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with collections of classic poetry, non-fiction anthologies, vintage children’s books. The close quarters have been perfumed with the sweet musk from years-old leaflets, art reference materials, old photograph albums, and so much more.

“That was the best job I ever had. I absolutely love it.”

“I had great customers. In my opinion, they were superior than other customers I’ve had in other jobs I’ve had.”

Graham recalled many wonderful experiences and fond memories the last 20 years have gifted her.

“Young people would come in and they’d hold a book in their hand that was a hundred years old and they were just so impressed,” she said.

She recalled one customer, a young girl from the Midwest whose grandmother lived in Sequim. The girl would work all year and save up her money in anticipation for a trip to Insatiables on her summer visits.

“She’d come to my store and buy wonderful, old books. She came several years ... to my store to buy her books. I imagine she has a wonderful collection,” Graham said.

“There was another experience with a young man,” she said. “He was taking the books off the shelves, looking all over the store. It was starting to irritate me, because I thought, ‘What’s he doing?’”

When he approached her to purchase his findings, he had six books that had subjects that were spread all over the store.

“He was graduating that year and he had picked out a book as a gift for each teacher in the subjects that they liked,” she said.

“That was just special.”

She remembers another instance with a couple that came in. “They had just gotten married and they were going to visit relatives in the Midwest for Christmas.”

They were shopping for something for each one of their relatives, picking out titles that would suit their families’ tastes.

“And then they came in each alone and picked out a present for the other one.”

“They came back every year for a while and wrote me the loveliest letter,” she added.

“There was another couple in Vancouver Island,” she said, “They were building a new house and they had a 3,000-square-foot library that they were furnishing mostly from my store.”

“Anyway, I could go on and on,” she laughed.

Graham said her main purpose for opening Insatiables was for the personal contact.

“Those kind of things you can’t experience selling online,” she said.

“It might seem silly, but I like to know where the books went. Some of those books are really special and it’s nice to know that they are really loved.”

When the pandemic hit, Graham was 81 with diabetes. It kept her away from the place she loved.

“I didn’t go back down to the store,” Graham said.

“Then my legs gave out. I can’t drive because of that, and it made it really difficult to do anything at the store. So I decided to give it up.”

She mourned the impending loss for over a year.

“I haven’t been able to go down there because I just can’t see it,” she said.

Instead, she left a handful of friends in charge to take care of the store’s final sales.

“I just can’t face it. It’s been a horrible experience having to decide I can’t do it anymore.”

“I really treasured the time that I was in the store,” Graham said, adding that she’ll miss the interactions with customers most of all.

This week, bright signs in Day Glo pink hang in the shop’s windows, signaling the end: “Everything must go.”

In line to enter one of the store’s final sales, Kathy Haven called the closing a “disaster.”

“We’ll miss it a lot,” Haven said.

She added how it was always full of “real treasures.”

Mike Rhodes added Insatiables was “one of a kind,” describing it as “a neat place to browse.”

A patron from the very beginning, Rick Dennison called it an “interesting place.”

Sad to see it closing, Dennison said, in Insatiables you “never know what you’d find.”

All good things must end, said a companion in line with him.

Beau Baker, another frequent customer, said he’ll be missing it now that it’s gone.

Others agreed.

“Should have come more often,” “A shame to see it go,” “Will miss it dearly” came the comments from the crowd waiting to get inside one more time.

Comments

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Sheila K.

Karen,

Thank you so much for all the enjoyment your book store gave my husband and I and everyone who was lucky enough to discover your wonderful shop. It was such an asset, and fit in it's niche here just perfectly. You were always fun to talk to when we popped in. Your books were amazing and I'm so happy tohave some of them!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the years of hard work you put in.

Will miss you terribly!

3 days ago