Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

J.K. Gill's Bookstores

summer 1945

Mary Lou Hershey and a friend are pictured here on the rooftop of J.K. Gill's Bookstore in Portland, Oregon. I doubt they were supposed to be there. The store was 10 floors high and there aren't any guardrails. And look at their expressions. Mary Lou in particular (on the left) looks as if she knows full well that the roof is off limits to employees.
J.K. Gill's closed the last of its stores in the 1990s. They'd been selling books and stationary and art supplies for more than 100 years.
In the 1950s J.K. Gill's was a fine old bookstore in downtown Portland. The first 2 or 3 floors were retail floors where they carried a comprehensive stock across all publishing companies. The upper floors were dedicated to the J.K. Gill's publishing and wholesale division. On one of the highest floors books were packed and then sent down a twisting shoot, very much like a sliding board, to several floors below where they were shipped out. I imagined myself on that terrifying ride down the book slide - out of the lit packing area through several unlit lower floors, gathering speed in the dark as I went. I imagined it so much that I almost think I really did go down - or worse, my little brothers did.
Edith Bristol ran the Children's Book department at J.K. Gill's. She had good posture and wore suits. She pulled her hair back. If she wasn't twinkling, she could look a little austere.
There was a wonderful Golden Books display unit in the Children's department. It was a sturdy wooden box about 4' x 4' x 5', painted to look like a house for elves. Elves were painted looking out the painted windows and working in the garden. The yellow roof was on a slant with little cubbies for book display. Back-up inventory could be stored on shelves inside the box. I know this display unit so well because Edith Bristol gave it to my brothers and sister and me when Gill's was through with it.
Edith lived out of the city some distance with a woman who didn't dress as well as Edith did.
Mary Lou Hershey was 18 when she got a job at J.K. Gill's. This was about the time she she met and fell in love with Frank Scioscia. No wonder he fell in love with her too. She was lovely, sweet, smart, cheerful AND she was a reader. She was a reader who worked in a bookstore!
Later, after he was discharged from the army and they were married, Frank Scioscia took a fun job amongst all those books at J.K. Gill's too.


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  2. My Shirley Temple doll purchased at J. k. Gills has kept me company for eighty years. I remember when I first saw her at the store and I still love her as much as when I first saw her. Loved that store in downtown Portland, Oregon, and oh, all their supplies for my art...Rosemarie.

  3. It is sad that big box stores have to come in and destroy such nice businesses such as Gills. I can imagine it was nice to work there.