Janelle Smith's new kid-centric Wishing Tree Books is the culmination of a dream, and years of work

click to enlarge Janelle Smith at the new Wishing Tree Books. - ALYCIA LOVELL PHOTO
Alycia Lovell photo
Janelle Smith at the new Wishing Tree Books.

The little lilac house in the Perry District stuffed to the brim with colorful children's books may seem like it's been there for years. In a part of town that's grown accustomed to the kinds of small businesses meant to catch eyes, it feels like a natural fit.

In fact, its presence has been a long time coming.

Wishing Tree Books, which opened in October, is run by Janelle Smith and her husband Ivan Smith. The store stands as the culmination of years of planning and a career in books that Janelle couldn't imagine going any other way.

"I was going to school to be a teacher," Smith says. "But what I really wanted was to have a bookstore."

She recalls a time in college when she called up the owners of the Children's Corner bookshop in River Park Square and "begged and begged and begged" them to give her a job.

Thus began a career in what her husband Ivan refer to as "book matchmaking." It turns out that working at the Children's Corner and later as a children's manager at Auntie's was a crash course in customer service and the children's book industry, especially in a literary community like Spokane. She was able to forge relationships and make connections that helped her get started on her own.

One of her previous connections, bookseller Tegan Tigani of Queen Anne Book Co., offered to become her investor, along with her husband Jordan Tigani — they shared a mutual dream of owning a bookstore.

In January, when the Smiths decided they wanted to go all-in and open the store, they found a house they thought would be perfect. And they knew who to call. The Tiganis bought the place and are now the Smiths' landlords.

When spring brings better weather, Smith has big things planned for the book-loving community. With a garage and a grassy backyard in the back, she wants to host camps in the summer and schedule groups and events throughout the year.

"[A bookstore] is something that goes with you forever," she says.

Part of what appeals to Smith about selling children's books is its resistance to online shopping — after all, rarely does anyone buy a book for a child without seeing it in person first. She wants to be a facilitator for that process.

"That's the pocket that seems to be holding on the strongest," Smith says. "And people sometimes are fearful of like, 'I don't know what to buy...' we like to think that's how we differ from online service."

The timing isn't easy — with Christmas shopping season rapidly approaching, Smith hopes to be able to bring in enough interest to attract customers looking to buy books for gifts. But she's convinced that she's doing the right things.

"We have enough support in all different parts of our life to have been able to pull it together," she says. "Our support system is so huge. And then we got this neighborhood, so it's all working out."♦

Wishing Tree Books • Tue-Sat 10 am-7 pm, Sun and Mon 11 am-5 pm • 1410 E. 11th Ave. • wishingtreebookstore.com • 315-9875

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