Portland, Oregon’s oldest independent bookstore, Cameron’s Books & Magazines, is in trouble. After 80 years, shop owner Jeff Frase announced in early October that the building’s new owner is terminating his lease, leaving two months to vacate. The beautiful old shop full of vintage books and a wealth of magazines is looking for a new home – fast.
Located along Third Avenue in downtown Portland, the shop opened in 1938 in another location before moving to its current spot more than 60 years ago. When the building was sold last year, Jeff hoped to renew his lease. Given the circumstances, however, he has decided to retire after owning Cameron’s since 1989. (He began working for the former owner in 1982.)
With thousands upon thousands of vintage books spanning the genres spread throughout the tightly packed, tall-shelved, book-stacked space – not to mention just as many old magazines – moving the inventory out will be quite a process. At the time of my visit, everything was reduced 20 percent in a “Lost Our Lease Sale.” Customers seeking rare books, as well as periodicals dating back to the 19th century (in one of the largest collections outside of the Library of Congress), could discover some well-priced treasures by digging through the stacks.
I visited the shop shortly after opening on a Sunday afternoon, and within minutes the place was bustling with what appeared to be a blend of regulars, new customers (I helped one locate a copy of Moby Dick), and even a former employee who’d worked in the shop many years ago.
“Everything is exactly the same,” she said with equal parts love and surprise. “In fact, I think I wrote that label there.”
After such a long history, it will be a shame to see Cameron’s close its doors – and one employee is hoping it won’t have to. Bookseller Crystal Zingsheim, who has worked in the shop for nearly 20 years herself, is attempting to keep it going. She has launched a Kickstarter campaign with hopes of raising $30,000 to keep Cameron’s growing in a new location.
“I want to keep Cameron’s alive,” she recently told The Oregonian. “I want to keep the name. It’s not about me or Jeff. We are simply caretakers of a legacy.”
Here’s hoping the people of Portland agree. To learn how you can help save Cameron’s Books & Magazines, check out the Kickstarter campaign page.
Cameron’s Books & Magazines is located at 336 SW 3rd Avenue, Portland, Oregon. Open daily, at least until year’s end.