If you’re looking to support local businesses and find the best selections of books, board and card games, comics or fun trinkets, Auntie’s Bookstore and Merlyn’s Comics and Games should be your first two stops.
Auntie’s bookstore is made up of two floors, filled wall to wall with new and used books – with sections for everything from fiction and philosophy to gender studies and poetry – as well as t-shirts, cards and all kinds of literary bric-a-brac.
Located at 402W Main Ave. In the more than 100-year-old Liberty Building downtown, Auntie’s is open Sunday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Auntie’s is proud of its efforts to highlight local authors and shine a light on those whose voices may be silenced or drowned out in mainstream media, such as BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors.
Owner John Waite says giving back to the local community is hugely important to his vision for the stores and their involvement with Spokane.
“We’re trying to help educate people about where your money is going and those concepts like money spins and your money stays local,” Waite said. “We put a lot of our money back into this neighborhood.”
Waite has owned Auntie’s for six years and Merlyn’s for about 23 years, but the businesses have been around since 1978.
Ongoing competitive struggles with large national conglomerates like Amazon and Walmart have made it difficult for small businesses to stay afloat, so the success of Auntie and Merlyn is a story worth highlighting.
Auntie’s holds new and used books – offering store credit for donated books – which helps make their products more accessible to a wider audience.
The store also asks staff to write short book recommendations, which are extremely helpful for shoppers looking for a new find or looking for something specific in terms of genre or style, but not title.
“I had been to a lot of other stores that always ended up being my favorite place every time I go to a bookstore if they have local staff,” Waite said. “It’s always the funniest and weirdest thing.”
The personalized attention and knowledge of the staff really sets Auntie’s apart from the rest bookstores like Barnes & Noble – and it’s a good chance to hear some local opinions and try some new literature that might not be found in branded stores.
Currently, Auntie’s has a large screen that features recommendations for “Book Riot’s 2022 Read Harder Challenge,” which is an annual set of 24 tasks designed to broaden one’s view of the world by reading all kinds of books. It asks you to read books of different genres, contexts, and perspectives that push you out of your reading comfort zone.
At Auntie’s they have printed lists of tasks you can complete and a large crate of books that address one or more of the tasks with little synopses and why the staff chose them for each task. accomplishment.
The bookstore also organizes fun activities for the community to get involved in, like small events with local authors and book clubs. Additionally, Waite says Auntie’s works closely with a local charity called “Our Place.”
The community outreach program is centered in the West Central neighborhood of Spokane and focuses on providing emergency resources such as food, clothing, hygiene products and even bus passes to people who need it.
For Waite, who grew up in West Central, putting so much energy into the organization equals the community supporting the community.
“You know, the theory is that if we have clients who are doing well, are healthy, and have disposable income, that’s better for us,” Waite said. “So by helping the community and helping people, maybe it’s good for us too.”
Speaking of community support, Auntie’s also contains two additional stores in the grand Liberty Building: Uncle’s game store and Pottery Place Plus.
Uncle’s, if you couldn’t tell, is an offshoot of Auntie’s and is essentially a mini-Merlyn’s and confirms the idea of the original 1978 “Book and Game Company” store. Pottery Place Plus is a local multimedia art store that was also established in 1978 and sells all kinds of artwork by local artists.
These two stores not only add to the attracted business and aesthetic of the area, but also add to Aunt’s dedication to supporting other local businesses and the Spokane community.
The store is widely known as a destination spot in Spokane and, for Gonzaga students, a great place to hang out if you like the calm, comforting atmosphere of a bookstore.
“Love Auntie’s – feels like coming home every time I go. There really is something for everyone…and it’s local,” said GU sophomore Mae Cramer.
Located at 15 W Main Ave., Merlyn’s is right in the middle of several amazing local shops and complements a great local shopping area. Merlyn’s is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Merlyn’s Comics and Games is very large for a comic book store – with several boxes of assorted comics and rows of board and card games. The shop is a very comfortable environment even if you’re unfamiliar with comic book culture, and the friendly staff are always ready to recommend games to suit any occasion.
The store also has a huge game room at the back of the store with large tables that provide a great space for groups to come and play social games. Before COVID-19 hit, Waite says many nights of the week the playing space was packed with people, especially when they were having big tournaments.
Waite says while he wants things back in this bustling group event space, he thinks it will be better in the long run to slow things down as the community slowly recovers from the pandemic.
“Even though I would love to do something with a bong and be giant and very exciting, it’s pretty scary,” Waite said. “I am goes take it easy, you know, very stable for a while.
Especially over the past two years with the pandemic, supporting local businesses and local businesses supporting each other has been very important.
at my aunt’s and Merlyn has implemented mail-order setups and curbside delivery options so customers can place orders or order things online while supporting small businesses from home during the height of quarantine. in Spokane.
“People really came out and supported us — they put their money where they say and really helped us out,” Waite said. “And you know, it could have been different. It was very difficult for many companies, some were not as lucky as us.
Next time you’re looking for a new book, game, or just strolling downtown on a free afternoon, head to Auntie’s and Merlyn’s, and all the fun local stores that around them, and support some local businesses.
Emmalee Appel is the multimedia editor. Follow them on Twitter: @emm_appel