Children’s Bookshop: 20 years of keeping kids literate

Angie Martinez and her 14-year-old daughter Marissa make the trek to Children’s Bookshop and Teaching Supplies from their home in Renton several times a year. Mom is looking for books to help supplement Marissa’s studies and likes the selection available at the Kent mainstay.

Karl Beavers

Karl Beavers

Angie Martinez and her 14-year-old daughter Marissa make the trek to Children’s Bookshop and Teaching Supplies from their home in Renton several times a year.

Mom is looking for books to help supplement Marissa’s studies and likes the selection available at the Kent mainstay.

“There’s lots to pick from,” Angie Martinez said. “It’s very helpful.”

For her part, Marissa Martinez prefers the little things, like the selection of pencils and erasers and various other supplies and small toys that fill the dozens of bins surrounding the cash register.

“(I like) all the little novelty things you can’t get anywhere else,” the younger Martinez said with a smile.

It’s exactly that combination of school and teacher supplies and fun novelty items that owner Karl Beavers said has kept him in business for two decades, one of the longest-running shops in the downtown core.

This past week, Children’s Bookshop celebrated its 20th anniversary and it’s come a long way since Beavers’ father first opened the doors.

Well, not really a long way – only across the street from its current location – but through the years the selection has changed to keep up with the times.

According to Beavers, his father started the shop as primarily a bookstore, with a few teaching supplies as well. It was a nod to Beavers’ mother, a retired Kent teacher.

“He thought it was a no-brainer because they both loved books,” Beavers said this past week.

But with more and more stores moving in on their inventory, they had to branch out.

“Books don’t sell like they used to,” Beavers said with a shrug. “They’re everywhere.”

The shop still stocks books – most on handmade shelves, just like when it opened 20 years ago – as well as teaching supplies, but the selection of toys, games and novelties has increased through the years.

“Over time we had to change our assortment,” Beavers said. “We had to change with the times to continue to prosper.”

That’s not to say there is a dearth of books. Not by any means.

“I think we carry more children’s books than the big box stores,” Beavers said as he made his way through the stacks. “If you need a book on about any animal known to mankind, we have it.”

Today, children’s books fill about a quarter of the space, half of floor space is devoted to teaching supplies and the rest splits between the study aids and toys, most of which have an educational bent, like rock tumblers and microscopes and DNA kits. They are also an exclusive retailer for “Speed Stacks” cup-stacking products.

The back half of the shop is devoted to teacher supplies, from decorations to math manipulators to flash cards to awards and certificates to stickers.

“I’ve got a million stickers on hand,” Beavers said.

The store is also the only place in South King County tobuy construction paper in bulk, according to Beavers.

But, as evidenced by the younger Martinez, the novelties and other items surrounding the cash register are quickly becoming favorites.

According to Beavers, the store sells more than 250,000 pencils each year (the biggest seller is the one that looks like a $1 bill) and is the only place around to find pre-school pencils, which are fatter than the standard variety to make it easier for smaller fingers to handle them.

It may be different from the bookstore that opened all those years ago, but the customers are still happy to come in.

“They have a nice selection here,” said Sharon Feucht, who has been shopping at the store since soon after it opened in 1988. “It’s a great store.”

While she calls it “unbelievable” that it’s been 20 years since they opened, Feucht said she still comes down to do gift shopping, even though her own children have outgrown the shop.

“When they’ve added toys or things they seem to be quality products,” she said.

With happy customers coming back, Beavers said there are no plans to change the winning formula in the future.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “And hopefully continue being a successful business.”

Children’s Bookshop and Teaching Supplies is located at 225 W. Meeker in downtown Kent. For more information, call 253-852-0383.

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