Armchair Books Closing But Owner Still Bullish on Downtown

Armchair Books in Port Orchard is closing — a result of national book consumption trends, seasonal swings in the local economy and a storefront in a downtown that hasn’t yet realized its revitalization hopes.
Owner DeDe Teeters says the rise of big box stores, online book sales and people reading fewer books in the computer age were factors in her decision to close the store, which was in business for 10 years.
“Our niche has changed. People’s reading habits have changed,” Teeters said.
But closer to home, Teeters’ business has had a hard time riding the seasonal roller coaster that characterizes downtown Port Orchard’s economy.
“We had a great summer with the boaters, and Christmas wasn’t bad, but it’s just not quite what we need it to be,” she said.

Teeters moved from Towne Square Mall in Port Orchard to the downtown location last year, after the mall — formerly South Kitsap Mall — changed hands. She was hopeful that a movement toward downtown revitalization would blossom, but she is financially unable to hang on until it does, she said.
She hasn’t lost her faith in the potential for downtown, though.
“The revitalization is going to happen,” Teeters said. “It’s just a long time until it happens. … Port Orchard has as much as Poulsbo. We can be a Poulsbo with the right direction and resources, and building owners to be part of it. I’m sorry not to be here for it. I wanted a piece of it.”
The City Council is working toward a step it believes is crucial to revitalization hopes. The council is likely to vote on a proposed Downtown Overlay District plan on March 26 that would clear the way for developers who have invested in key downtown properties to proceed with their plans.
But a recent public outcry against a height ordinance in the plan could delay the process.
Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel said she was not surprised by the large number of residents who turned out at Monday’s City Council meeting to protest the proposed 55-foot limit, which would be increased from the current 48-foot limit. But Abel said the council added the provision after careful consideration of the pros and cons.
“Height has been an issue all along,” Abel said. “Does it make sense to go back to the drawing board? We’ll see.”
Abel said that she was sorry to see Teeters’ store close before downtown had a chance to fully realize its potential.
“I’m sorry to see DeDe close, because she’s been a great asset to our community both as a merchant and on the chamber,” Abel said.
Mallory Jackson, president of the Port Orchard Bay Street Association also regrets seeing Teeters go. Teeters has been a member of the association, which over the past year has ramped up efforts to promote the downtown area through publicity, special events and a membership drive.
Members also are looking to attract businesses that would add to Port Orchard’s “upscale” quotient, something Teeters’ independent bookstore did, Jackson said.
Still, Dennis Lei, the association’s vice president, said he’s encouraged by new investors willing to take a chance on downtown Port Orchard. He sees downtown’s empty buildings and boarded up shop fronts as “a positive,” because the buildings’ owners are poised to take action as soon as new development rules are made clear.
“We’re getting those new owners who are willing to upgrade and more upscale businesses. I’ve been accused of being arrogant when I say that, and that isn’t my intent. We don’t want to turn it into a Sausalito that’s yuppified,” said Lei, who’s from California.
“We want it to stay our same little town, but at the same time, we want to elevate the type of shops that are there.”
In the meantime, Teeters is selling her inventory and offering 40 percent off books through the end of March, when she will join Arundel Books of Seattle.

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