Portland History: Armchair Books Paperback Exchange & Brooklyn Neighborhood

Armchair Books Paperback Exchange, Milwaukie Ave at Kelly Street, Brooklyn Neighborhood, Portland Oregon, June 26 2009.
Armchair Books Paperback Exchange
Milwaukie Ave at Kelly Street, Brooklyn Neighborhood
Portland Oregon
Taken on June 26, 2009
Photo by Dan Haneckow
Dan's site: www.cafeunknown.com, a blog about Portland History.

Dan sent this message over about the history of the area/building:

There is a timelessness where Milwaukie Avenue meets Powell Blvd in the Brooklyn neighborhood; the Aladdin Theater, an old Tastee-Freeze that now serves Teriyaki, O'Briens Pub and especially the Armchair Books Paperback Exchange. I've passed through the area for years, amazed at how little it has changed.

Armchair Books keeps on going while institutions such as the Catbird Seat, Conant & Conant and Twenty-Third Avenue Books have closed up shop. A browse through old Portland directories shows that it has been there since 1970. It is one year older than Powells. The secret of its longevity is just that, a secret, but it might have something to do with its location. The small Spanish-tiled building was built in 1930 as the Brooklyn Barber Shop and Beauty Shop, at what was then #617 Milwaukie Street (the attached house to the rear is much older still). For the next 38 years the Brooklyn Barber Shop and the Brooklyn Beauty Shop operated in the location, sometimes as one, then the other, often both at the same time. It closed in 1968. Two years later Armchair Family Books opened. It has been there 39 years, one year longer than the Brooklyn Barber Shop and Beauty Shop.

There is an old Hires Root beer sign is painted on the side of the building. How old is it? When did all the Tastee-Freezes close? The decades blur. In 1930 the Aladdin was called the Brooklyn Theater. For many years O'Briens was the Y-Not Tavern. Change does arrive, but it gets there slowly.

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2 Responses to Portland History: Armchair Books Paperback Exchange & Brooklyn Neighborhood

  1. Norm! June 29, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    I just moved back to the neighborbood and was surprised to see this bookstore was still there. To be honest, I haven’t been brave enough to explore this store.

    I remember for the longest time (until the early 90’s?), the Aladdin’s marque only said, “Movies For Mature Adults Only”. So, I kinda assumed the bookstore down the street was also an adult oriented business.

  2. whatnot June 29, 2009 at 9:04 pm #

    I bought wonderful classic mystery paperbacks by the grocery sack there in the ’70s — Maigret, Emma Lathen, Raymond Chandler, Hammett, etc. The owner was renowned for the rabbit tattoo on his belly. His belly button served for the hindmost orifice of the rabbit. I think a picture of it appeared in the 1972 Reed yearbook, the Griffin.

    I think he did have adult material, but I think that was behind the counter and viewed by request.

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