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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

She’s hooked on her books: ‘Matchmaker’ to open Wishing Tree Books in South Perry soon

Books spilled from dozens of boxes and towered in stacks on shelves.

Janelle Smith was in her element.

She grinned.

“I ordered 4,000 books. Thankfully, they didn’t all come at once!”

When Wishing Tree Books opens later this month in the South Perry neighborhood, it will be the culmination of a lifelong dream for Smith.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do is own a bookstore,” she said. “In high school, I started making lists of the books I’d have and the authors I’d invite.”

Her husband, Ivan Smith, calls her a “book matchmaker.”

It’s a talent she honed as a child.

“I was at Powell’s Books in Portland, and a lady asked me to help her find a book for her granddaughter,” she recalled.

And she was hooked.

During college, she worked at Children’s Corner Bookshop in the old River Park Square and developed lasting friendships. In fact, she meets for monthly lunches with the former owners and co-workers.

After graduating, she taught school for at time, worked as the events manger at Auntie’s Bookstore and most recently worked as Auntie’s children’s book manager.

Smith is currently on the Washington State Book Award Committee and has served on the E.B. White Award Committee.

With such solid bookselling credentials behind her, the time seemed right to finally open her own store.

“I knew I wanted to be in the Perry district,” Smith said. “I wanted a neighborhood bookstore.”

When the house on 11th Avenue came on the market, she knew she’d found the perfect location.

Smith had met fellow bookseller Tegan Tigani of Queen Anne Book Co. in Seattle at a book event, and Tigani and her husband, Jordan Tigani, expressed interest in investing in a bookstore in Spokane.

The Tiganis purchased the property in August 2018 and are Smith’s landlords.

Though Smith grew up in the Tri-Cities, the South Perry neighborhood shop is a homecoming of sorts.

“My dad grew up on 16th, so I’m in his old neighborhood,” she said.

She found a contractor who lives in the neighborhood, and work on the 1907 house began.

“We completely gutted it,” Smith said. The result is 900 square feet of light and airy selling space.

Smith chose vibrant purple paint for the exterior and interior of the store.

“Purple makes me happy,” she said.

She commissioned Lewis and Clark student Emma Daniels, 14, to make a stained-glass window and paint two exterior murals.

The murals feature books spines, and their titles are a tribute to her landlords.

“I asked them what their favorite books are, and those are the titles on the murals,” Smith said.

While the majority of the books filling the shelves are children’s books, Smith also is devoting space to books and gifts for grown-ups.

“I’m including adult fiction and nonfiction because we’re a neighborhood store and want everyone to feel welcome,” she said.

Her goal is to create a growing community of readers with literature-based programs and activities. Children’s storytimes, adult book clubs, yoga for kids and partnering with the nearby Odyssey Youth Center and Buddhist Temple are all in the works.

“In the spring, we’ll hold events in the backyard,” she said. As Smith looks to the future, an important piece of her bookselling past has a place of honor at Wishing Tree Books.

“I was gifted with the wooden book table from the Children’s Corner Bookshop,” said Smith. “It means so much to me – like a torch is being passed.”

Surrounded by books that feel like old friends, she’s looking forward to meeting new friends.

“I’m excited to develop repeat customers and become a part of their story,” she said.