Powell's Bookstore

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Powell's NW 10th & Burnside entrance
Powell's NW 10th & Burnside entrance

Powell's Books is a chain of bookstores in the Portland metropolitan area. Powell's headquarters, dubbed Powell's City of Books, claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world.[1] Powell's City of Books is located in the Pearl District on the edge of Downtown, and occupies a full city block, between NW 10th and 11th Avenues and between W Burnside and NW Couch Streets. It contains over 68,000 ft² (6,300 m² or about 1.6 acres) of retail floor space.

The inventory for its retail and online sales is over four million new, used, rare, and out-of-print books.[2] Since 2005, its website has also offered DVDs with free shipping, with an inventory of over 40,000. At its retail stores it shelves all new and used books side-by-side. Powell's buys around 3000 used books a day.[1]

Powell's has an Internet presence which began in 1993 as email and FTP-based access to its technical bookstore; it has since expanded to incorporate fiction and other genres as a traditional ecommerce site.[3] Their website was established in 1994, before Amazon.com, and has contributed substantially to the chain's recent growth.[4]


Powell's was founded by Walter Powell in 1971. His son, Michael Powell, had started a bookstore in Chicago, Illinois in 1970 which specialized in used, rare, and discounted books, primarily of an academic and scholarly nature. Michael Powell soon joined his father in Portland, leading the expansion business to what it is today. The Chicago area stores still exist, but under different ownership.[5]

Ancient manhole entrance to the historic water reservoir underneath the building

Some of the store's actions have made big news in Portland. When the Oregon Citizens Alliance qualified Ballot Measure 9 in 1992, an anti-gay rights measure, the bookstore actively campaigned against the measure. A few years later, a prolonged labor dispute between Powell's employees and Michael Powell over unionizing the employees tarnished his reputation as a champion of liberal causes.[6] Powells.com is the only major online bookseller to be unionized.

In 2002, Powell's was cited by USA Today as one of America's 10 best bookstores[7].

Michael Powell announced in June 2006 that he plans to hand over the business at an undeclared future date to his daughter, Emily.[8]

In January 2008, Powell's announced plans to expand the downtown City of Books by adding as many as two floors to the store's southeast corner. The expansion will add at least Template:Convert of new retail space, and will house Powell's technical books, which are moving from their current location in the company's other building on Northwest Park Avenue.[9][10] Plans submitted to the Portland Design Commission in November 2008 called for a rooftop garden atop the new addition and an "art cube" over a redesigned main entrance.[11]

Men's Bathroom

Located in the Rose room, the men's bathroom is one of the few publicly available bathrooms in the Pearl District. Multiple stalls and urinals, and various flights of stairs required to access it means traffic remains low. (av. 1-2 at a time.)

Grout Poetry - In the men's bathroom there exists a range of bathroom poetry scratched into the white grout between the bathroom tiles in front of the right urinal. It appears to be a play on book titles or famous book characters

Messages include:

  • Midnight in the Garden of Grout and Evil
  • Grouto Marx
  • Grout Expectations
  • What are you talking a Grout?
  • Grout Zero

Condoms - Just in case safe sex is an immediate possibility, Powell's has generally provided a condom vending machine. Items cost 50 cents per item.

  • UltraShape
  • Island Magic

List of locations

In addition to its "City of Books" location, Powell's Books also has several smaller stores:


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Powell's Books on Burnside". Powell's City of Books. http://www.powells.com/info/places/burnsideinfo.html. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  2. "Internet Retailer Best of the Web 2006". Internet Retailer. http://www.internetretailer.com/article.asp?id=16892#powells. Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  3. History of Powells.com from its website
  4. Baker, Lisa (March 19, 2004). "Powell’s success story adds a chapter". Portland Tribune. http://www.portlandtribune.com/news/story.php?story_id=23515. Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  5. History of Powell's Books from the company's website
  6. Giegerich, Andy (December 5, 2003). "Powell’s owner and his workers: between a book and a hard place". Portland Tribune. http://www.portlandtribune.com/archview.cgi?id=21783. Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  7. USA Today, January 21, 2002. "10 Great Places to Crawl Between the Covers"
  8. "Powell's in the Press". Powell's Books. http://www.powells.com/info/press.html. Retrieved 2006-07-28. 
  9. Gunderson, Laura (January 22, 2008). "Powell's plans expansion in two years". OregonLive.com. http://blog.oregonlive.com/breakingnews/2008/01/powells_plans_expansion_in_two.html. Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  10. Nawotka, Edward (January 23, 2008). "Powell’s to Expand Flagship in 2010, Absorb Technical Store". Publisher's Weekly. http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6524823.html. Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  11. Portland Architecture: Powells Unveils Design For New Entrance to Flagship Store
  12. Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing from the company's website
  13. Powell's Books at PDX from the company's website


External links