Gold Beach Books ~ A Book Lover's Dream by Laurel Gerkman (Published in Oregon Coast Magazine, December 2007)
At first sight, ten-year-old Ted Watkins wanted the book about Daniel Boone. He asked his mother to buy it for him. She did. Thus began a lifelong passion for collecting books that grew into the largest bookstore on the Oregon Coast.
"It got me started," says Watkins. "I still have that book today."
Watkins grew up to be a successful attorney. Through the decades, he collected books of all types that eventually filled several storage units. A few years ago, Watkins retired from practicing law and moved to Gold Beach, a place fondly remembered from childhood. He brought his enormous book collection and obsession with him.
"You can never have enough books," says Watkins.
Watkins built the Biscuit Building in 2003, naming it for the Biscuit Fire that, months earlier, had consumed 500,000 acres of nearby Kalmiopsis and Siskiyou wilderness.
The impressive, 12,000 square foot, two-story facility rose like a Phoenix to become a focal point of social activity. Gold Beach Books and the Biscuit Coffeehouse & Art Gallery hold a muse for everyones taste and anyones budget.
"As a resident of what I think is the most beautiful area on earth," says Watkins. "The only thing I thought could improve it was a great big bookstore."
Upon entering the grand foyer, senses buzz, stimulated by the abundance of options. Books are everywhere! To the right, an espresso machine fizzles and lattes steam amid soft whispers of conversation. On the left, a pallet of local art is on exhibit. All around, the walls are painted with famous, thought provoking quotes. Sweet aromas of baked goods waft through the air. Music is regularly performed live on site.
Gold Beach Books Inc. boasts a collection of 50,000 volumes--a virtual banquet of new, used, and collectible books. Hideaways with comfy chairs are tucked between bookshelf aisles providing a place to scrutinize your purchase or enjoy a quiet chat. Internet access and laptop portals are available, or you can use one of the facilitys complimentary on-line computers.
The Biscuit CoffeeHouse features a blend of nine beans from all over the world. Every imaginable concoction of coffee beverage can be made to order. Not a caffeine drinker? Fruit smoothies, herb teas, or bottled cold drinks are also on the menu. Over-sized muffins, gooey squares, and chunky cookies are fresh baked on the premises. The Marionberry scone is a popular favorite alongside the Triple Chocolate Coronary brownie and bottomless cup of house Joe.
While sipping, patrons peruse the Biscuit Art Gallery featuring artists from all over the state and many mediums. Shows are rotated throughout the year. To celebrate, Gold Beach Books hosts receptions with an array of delectable refreshments. Everyone is invited to attend--free of charge.
Upstairs, regally decorated in tones of burgundy and beige, the Biscuit Showroom serves as a meeting or event room that can seat up to 60 people. The public can reserve this stately space complete with a projector screen, sound system and walls lined with the works of literary giants.
Glass showcases reveal rare editions of tomes written by John Steinbeck, Ray Bradbury, Ernest Heminingway and numerous other legendaries. Its like a book museum. A couple of Watkins favorites on display are a copy of In My Own Words, signed by Mother Theresa of Calcutta while convalescing in New York, and a volume about Vatican architecture, published in 1694, that he purchased in Rome.
"One of the biggest surprises is the number of talented local writers, artists and musicians that just needed a venue," says Watkins.
Community clubs hold regular gatherings here. Members and visitors are welcome to join in the on-going activities of Kniffy Knitters, Chess Nuts, the Camera Club and others. A Writers Circle is held weekly, and Open Microphone Night encourages patrons to share their poetry, prose or favorite literary passage with room of open ears.
Additionally, numerous educational public presentations are scheduled. Topics range from a lecture on iconography, video tours of Costa Rica, or learning about the life cycle of Green sturgeon in the Rogue River.
A wide variety of musical performances occur almost every Saturday night--no charge. Local favorites, the Euchre Creek String Band entertain often as do Homemade Jam, a father-daughter duo playing folk-rock tunes. Slovenian dancers have captivated onlookers, and the Gold Beach High School Choir finals left the audience breathless. Out-of-town musicians also stop by bringing the sounds of jazz, classical and acoustic guitar solos.
On weekends and worthy of mention is the easy listening piano style of Ray Kornell. Hes nearly 80 now and has been tickling the ivories for over 40 of those years. When not playing at the Biscuit, Kornell volunteers his talents to dozens of convalescent homes throughout southern Oregon.
Rain or shine, through all the seasons, theres always something happening at the Biscuit Building--built by a booklover for booklovers--offering volumes of new and forgotten lore and a comfortable, entertaining place to spend some quality time.
"Our cadre of coffeehouse regulars and out-of-town visitors is a daily joy, and I couldnt be happier," says Watkins.