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Orca Books is Thurston County's largest independently-owned bookstore currently located in the heart of downtown Olympia, at 315 5th Ave SE. We stock new and used books, cards, and journals, and are proud to carry many locally-produced items by Olympia artists and craftspeople. The bookstore has been around for nearly 30 years, when Linda Berentsen purchased it from her father, William (Bill) Foster.
It all began in the early 1990s, when Linda Berentsen bought the bookstore, then called “Counterpoint Books,” from her father. The only alphabetized section was fiction, and there were no new books, no in-store trading, and no section signage. It was utter chaos!
Next, Cori Christiansen, a friend of Linda’s from Evergreen, came on as a full-time partner in June of 1993. Neither Cori or Linda had any business or retail experience, but they loved books and took the leap.
The two brainstormed for weeks trying to come up with a locally resonant name. One day, Linda saw a sign with an orca on it and said “Aha!” Orca Books—A big Northwest animal to symbolize a big Northwest bookstore. In 2003, Linda bought out Cori’s half of the business. It was a difficult break, but Linda knew she wasn’t ready to give up. She continued on as the sole owner for 16 years—a feat she couldn’t have accomplished without her experienced, loyal, wonderful staff.
The decision to form a cooperative was made in early 2019. After almost 3 decades of running a successful bookstore, Linda was ready to retire, but wanted to ensure that the store lived on. Linda and her staff decided that the best course of action was to transform into a member-owned cooperative, so that the store could remain open and continue serving the needs of the Olympia bookworm community.
So... as of 4/1/20 Orca became Orca Books Cooperative, right in the middle of the Pandemic! By July we had moved from our old location next to City Hall to our new location near Rainy Day Records. We opened our doors at the new space on October 1, 2020. We offer Curbside Delivery for our online/phone orders and are open for browsing. Over the years, we’ve had earthquakes, blizzards, power outages, packed Harry Potter parties, Rick Riordan arriving by yacht and signing 400 books in an hour, Cheryl Strayed reading to a full house, hanging out with Matt Groening and Lynda Barry after hours, and getting to share it all with you lovely book people! Thanks for all the wonderful support you have sent our way as we have reconfigured Orca Books for the new world in which we find ourselves.