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Despite the ups and downs of the retail and restaurant industries, Ashland is home to several long-lived businesses, including Nimbus, Rare Earth, and the granddaddy of them all, Omar’s. Please don’t fire off angry letters telling us which ones we left out — this isn’t meant to be a complete list. But perhaps the most surprising, given the fate of so many independent bookstores, is Bloomsbury Books.
Founded 40 years ago and still operated by two of the original owners, Bloomsbury is going strong, thanks in no small measure to Ashland’s tourist-supported economy. An independent bookstore in most towns of 20,000 people would not survive long if it depended entirely on local residents.
We would venture to guess that there’s even more to it than that. Plenty of towns have tourists, but Ashland has Shakespeare tourists: highly educated, well-read and literary minded, the kind of people who love books, read books and are delighted to support a small business that sells books.
And that’s not to discount Ashland residents at all. This is a college town, for starters, and books go together with colleges.
Beyond that, many local residents moved here because the discovered and fell in love with the town while attending the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Now that they are permanent residents, a quality bookstore within walking distance that offers a cozy coffee shop draws them in on a regular basis.
Now, fittingly enough, a popular website has named Bloomsbury the best bookstore in Oregon. Eat your heart out, Powell’s.