Goodbar Books opens offering a cache of curious collectibles

Photo By Gerald Santana

COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. - A new shop on Main Street recently emerged with the opening of Goodbar Books, a new, used and collectible bookstore in historic downtown Cottage Grove. At Goodbar Books, the lore between the pages, and the books as objects themselves are seen as art.

“I've loved books since I was a little kid. I've always loved making books, as a writer and artist, so I'm kind of coming from that background and I kind of see books as works of art.” said Matt Runkle, part owner of the new book shop, he with his partner, Dan Peck are both extremely passionate about books and vintage paper media products.

Strolling into Goodbar books, you are immediately immersed in history, it jumps out at you with the covers of many unusual and curious titles. Each book seems to be carefully selected and displayed for both its interesting content and its artistic merit, as an object.

Runkle said, “I lived in California, where I became interested in letterpress printing and bookmaking, and then I actually moved to Iowa for a while and studied those disciplines there, in a Book Arts program.”

At the University of Iowa, Runkle learned the traditional crafts associated with making books. “Letterpress printing, bookbinding, papermaking, calligraphy, like all of those different crafts that at one time, were actually trades, and with the industrialization of publishing, are not really trades anymore.” he said.

“They are actually crafts.” He described how there is a “kind of a hierarchy” with fine art and crafts, “So that was a big part of my journey learning about books, understanding how they're made, and coming to appreciate really nice designs. I really love the design of books from the 20th century particularly. So that was a big piece of becoming enamored with books.”

When they moved to Cottage Grove, Runkle and Peck both fell in love with Kalapuya Books; as a space that happens to sell books. “We thought it was a beautiful space. We thought the books that they were selecting were really great. We love their focus on natural history, and local history”. Eventually, they were working behind the counter with the store's owner, Betsy Hartzell.

“We learned a lot from her. We also love the Bookmine as well. And we think it's really exciting that there are three bookstores in a town that's only 10,000-plus people. It's very, very rare. And Gail [Hoelzle] has talked about that too, what a unique thing that is for the town.”

When Books on Main closed during the pandemic, many customers were disappointed with its loss. “They were serving a real need for the community. And we don't really have the space for that here. We have a very small space, unfortunately, but they're missed. They are definitely missed. People talk about how they miss them a lot.” Runkle said.

Months after Buster’s Main Street Cafe and the Bottle Shop also closed after the pandemic, interested business owners began their bids for the viable spots on Main Street. It wasn’t long after that Runkle and Peck began negotiations for a chance at a lease on the historic block. After the ink dried on the deal, bins of books and shelves began to make their way into the storefront, and now open for business, albeit only two days a week and by appointment.

They opened the weekend of Bohemia Mining Days. Once inside, customers will discover a quaint space with classic treasures behind every title. “We have a really strong focus on literary fiction, 20th century and before. Literary fiction, as well as a lot of literary nonfiction. We're really interested in natural history, field guides.” Runkle said.

“And then, we're trying to get a pretty strong metaphysical section together, with kind of a focus on some of the more Western esoteric stuff as well, different kinds of stuff within that category. And then also, just stuff around homesteading, sustainability, permaculture, and ecology. We have a lot of ephemera, too: old maps, pamphlets, and brochures.”

Goodbar Books also carries a wide assortment of early Cottage Grove publications, which are increasingly becoming difficult to find, and are now only offered as reproductions. “We have some of the original ones, that's stuff that we definitely seek out. We're always on the hunt for that and so are excited when we find that stuff.”

While Runkle sorts through the shop and lists books, Peck routinely scours thrift stores, estate sales, garage sales, and through personal collections to pick through and find books, pamphlets, prints, and, in some cases, original works of art. “We get really excited because we are really interested in the local history here. It's interesting, when we moved here - I didn't know this until after we moved here - we found out that my grandparents lived here briefly.”

It was a connection that Runkle talks about with enthusiasm, that his grandparent's retirement and his desire years later to live in Cottage Grove intersected at different times. Peck’s luck in finding collectibles has led him to find Runkle’s grandfather's art. “My grandpa was actually an artist, and he did drawings of a lot of the regional covered bridges. And Danny has been finding those out when he's hunting, he's found some in people's houses, which has been really exciting.”

With our generation heading toward a paperless society, assuring humanity that e-books and file downloads are meant to both reduce our carbon footprint and to give consumers the convenience of reading through devices, picking and then, reading physical books is an enduring pastime which can never be replaced.

Describing what you will expect to see at the shop, Runkle said, “I'm really interested in art that uses both text and image together, like in illustrated books, posters, comics and graphic novels, stuff like that, where you see an interaction between words and pictures.”

In fact, Runkle said he’s been building up sections in the shop, for both text and illustrated books. “There's like, books about books, there's also books about design. I don't know if it's going to resonate with the public as much as it does just with my own weird interests. That's what's been fun for me, and we'll see how that resonates.”

This month, the Cottage Grove Sentinel will be the featured artist for ArtWalk at Goodbar Books. The Sentinel editor will display several original publications from the earliest days of the newspaper's incarnation including The Cottage Grove Leader, original press type, and a 30-minute talk with Q&A on the earliest hand printing presses in Cottage Grove, their locations, and other Cottage Grove publishing history.

Goodbar Books can be found at 811 E Main St, Unit B: Cottage Grove, Ore. 97424. It’s open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 to 6 p.m., and by appointment. They can also be found online through Instagram @goodbarbooks. ArtWalk is Friday, August 25, between 6 to 8 p.m. in historic downtown Cottage Grove, with the talk scheduled at 7:00 p.m.