Grab your next beach read from Pegasus Book Exchange

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Photo by Lindsey Anderson
Photo by Lindsey Anderson

Just a few minutes' drive from Alki beach sits a quaint little bookshop bursting at the seams with everything a Seattle reader could ever need. Pegasus Book Exchange, one of the city's oldest bookstores, has been offering readers some of the best and fairest-priced beach reads since the 1980s.

Pegasus Book Exchange is a quintessential Seattle business, operating with a chill vibe and friendly demeanor. Everyone who enters the store feels like an old pal, and even the owners refuse to see themselves as "businesspeople."

"The bosses have had it for years. There're three owners here, and I'm the other person," joked jack-of-all-trades Eric Ogriseck. "So, I'm the guy who does all the stuff they don't have time to do. They've never given names, they don't even like being called 'owners.' We all try to take care of the place the best we can."

A magical history
For Ogriseck, who has worked at Pegasus for nearly a decade, bookselling is a calling. "I've been doing it for many years. Honestly, this will be my twentieth year of bookselling coming up. I've done various other things, from being a teacher to working in big business in Manhattan, but this is what made me happiest," he said. "No two days are ever alike. I get to see cool stuff that I'd never see if I didn't work here. It's just exciting, ultimately. I can make enough money to live on it, and I can make myself happy and be a good partner to my lady at home, and that's ultimately super important."

While Pegasus Book Exchange moved a few times in its 40-year history, the store has always been located on the same West Seattle block. "It's been in two, three locations, but all on this street, always," Ogriseck said. The location has molded the store into what it is today. "It's hectic and wonderful. We see so many books, we're such a small shop that some people just come in, and they're like, 'How do you guys have so many books?' As you can see, it's small, narrow, but we have so many things coming through."

"Honestly, we get compliments from people who go to the bigger shops all the time and say how great our stock is. It's unique for its size, but it can be very hectic because it is small. We're in the busiest part of West Seattle, too. Right near Easy Street, that's the corner of the junction itself, it's always lively," he continued.

Becoming a hybrid store
Pegasus Book Exchange is a "hybrid" store featuring new and used books. Originally the shop exclusively sold used books. "We started only used, probably for about 27 years, and then with Twilight and Da Vinci Code, those were the two big books that made us reconsider that. So, we started ordering new around that point, and we'll always keep doing that," Ogriseck said.

Today, the store is still mostly used books, but the influx of new books means readers can find just about anything they want. "Now it's about 10 to15% of our store; when I started it was only about 5%. Especially with the pandemic now, people buy what they want regardless of if it's new or used. Of course they always want it used."

Ogriseck says the pandemic has changed how some customers buy books. The store has had to adapt, too. "Back in the day, it would have been harder to sell some of these hot things new. Now people are like, look that's the only way to get it. The pandemic, once again, I thank it for that because people realize there's no point in waiting necessarily for something you can't afford that you do want. Some people do still wait, and we're cool with that. But, mostly used, that's what we prefer, but it's hard to get people to trade in as quickly as we want them to with some of these books."

Photo by Lindsey Anderson  

A book for everyone
Pegasus Book Exchange has a wide variety of books with something for every reader. "It's a little bit of everything, when we first started, it was romance and mystery was our bread and butter. Without those two, we would not be here, and the New Age, at one point, was big. But now it's the smaller subjects that aren't necessarily big that help us a lot. Like poetry. We sell so many poetry books, it's unbelievable, and our 'employee-pick' section turns over well," Ogriseck said.

Unlike many used bookstores, Pegasus also has an LGBTQ+ book section. "We have [an LGBTQ+ section]. We have one for young adults, and then we have one for adults, so we have a spin rack in the back, and we even have a fantasy section. There's a fair amount of them. Then we have a gender studies section with a lot of nonfiction, so that's definitely a huge selling section, and has been for a few years now," he added.

While Ogriseck sees many of the benefits of having a wide LGBTQ+ section, he also admits it's something the store employees go back and forth on. "We were torn on it, honestly. You want to have the books separated so people can quickly access them, but in a way, you might be doing them a disservice," he said. "Like, someone who might not ever shop that section won't buy it if it's not in the section they normally shop. So, we're kind of torn on it, but we do have that spin rack for, you know, Queer teens, and that section does well because the kids know they can go back there, check it out, no judgment, we don't care, it's not our business. It's fun to let people know they have that freedom to get whatever they want and have it centralized, so that spin rack has been wonderful."

Photo by Lindsey Anderson  

What's hot this summer?
This summer's popular books at Pegasus Book Exchange have been all over the place, but Ogriseck has noticed many LGBTQ+ titles standing strong among the top sellers. "This summer, Sea of Tranquility there on the table by Emily St. John Mandel, beautiful book, very popular," Ogriseck said. "Next to it, Lapvona by Moshfegh, I just finished reading both of those books, and they are incredible. Nonfiction, you know. Crying in H-Mart has been the hottest book in nonfiction for quite some time, and then good pickups like House in the Cerulean Sea by Klune; people need something nice and heartwarming and that book is that. Those four have been some of the hottest, at least in the last couple of months."

Pegasus Book Exchange sells more than just books. "We had our T-shirts made, we've got these totes, we've got all these stickers," Ogriseck said, taking a walk around the front of the store. He also sells special handmade jewelry, cards, and dehydrated mushrooms. "Sea glass jewelry that my partner and I make. We go find this stuff on the beach and then she puts it onto jewelry. We sell mushrooms here that I forage in the woods, I've got dehydrated mushrooms that I find in the woods year-round. We've been keeping our ear to the ground to listen to what people want. People have been asking for cards for a long time, so this is one of our customers, he makes this, V. McMurray is his name. Just kind of, once again, selling what the customers want. We even have board games and puzzles. People love it," he said.

Pegasus makes sure to listen to what customers want, which Ogriseck says makes the store unique. "Booksellers are kind of known to be stubborn and do what they want, and we're the opposite of that. We listen to what the customers want, and that ultimately dictates what we carry," he explained.

"A lot of bookstores that are no longer around kept what they wanted. That worked for many years, but with the advent of the internet and Amazon, now everything can be purchased there immediately for cheaper than what we have. So, we've really got to keep our ear to the ground and listen to what the folks want, and that certainly is, even if it means carrying stuff you don't think will sell," he continued.

The store carries books of all types, from graphic novels to children's books to dense academic texts on Roe v. Wade. Because the store mostly stocks used books, the prices are also unbeatable. With amazing customer service, an expansive number of books, and some quality dehydrated mushrooms, Pegasus Book Exchange is a must-stop shop for any Seattle book lover.

Pegasus Book Exchange is located at 4553 California Ave SW, Seattle WA 98116. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.