Promise of print still alive at Serendipity | Women in Business

Carol Jackson

Classics, bestsellers, Pacific Northwest authors—you name it, they’ve probably got it. And if they don’t, they’ll find it.

Serendipity, Friday Harbor’s only used bookstore, has titles pouring out of the shelves, 56,235 to be exact. All books are tracked by computerized inventory, but that’s the extent of technology at Serendipity. Co-owners Carol Jackson and Dilys Goodman are keen on keeping traditional print alive in the era of e-readers.

“People are always saying, ‘I want a book I can hold in my hand,’” Jackson said. “People want to browse. You can’t open a book on the internet.”

Jackson said she regularly talks with visitors who are ecstatic to find Serendipity, because the local used bookstore in their own town went out of business.

The idea to open a used bookstore in 1995 was simple—there wasn’t one in Friday Harbor. Jackson, a retired librarian, moved to San Juan Island and her neighbor, Betty Stewart, also retired from the same profession.

The two women started with about 3,000 titles, and opened Serendipity on Halloween, 1995. Stewart was only able to stay at the bookstore for a short time because of health problems.

Opening a business was nerve-wracking for Jackson, she had no experience running one. She joined Soroptomist International of Friday Harbor the year Serendipity opened, which many local business women to, and was able to find help in easing her business woes.

Goodman joined Serendipity two years after it opened as co-owner.

“We both have our divisions of labor,” Jackson said. “We have a natural, wonderful partnership.”

There’s a third woman in the business as well, invisible, though she may be.

Goodman, who Jackson describes as a “down to earth person not inclined to see ghosts,” saw a woman wearing an old-fashion dress in the window one morning when she arrived to work. Perhaps that’s fitting of a business that opened its doors on the spookiest day of the year, Halloween.

The ghost, the books in boxes because there’s not enough room on the shelves, the dozens of books that need to be entered into the computer, alphabetizing– it might sounds like work to some, but for Jackson, it’s something entirely different.

“It’s all fun,” she said. “It’s not a real job as far as I’m concerned. I hope to be doing this until they carry me out.”

Serendipity is located 223 A Street, above the ferry lanes, open seven days a week, and can be reached at 378-2665.