For a city with a focus on the arts you would think books would be a larger part of that focus and growth. Books unceasingly inspire the arts while also being art. The old adage stands true that art begets art. The literary arts are as difficult and often fruitless as any other art form when it’s your profession. I’d wager that a solid 20-30% of the “starving artists'' demographic are writers. It’s not easy to do and in turn it’s not always easy to sell, especially in mid major markets, where independent bookstores are often overlooked for the sake of convenience. It was shocking to search and find that in all my years there has been only one addition to the city able to make it last and that is King’s Books.
It originally opened into 2000 and has been a pillar in the print savvy community for 22 years now. The selection is current and exciting, I happen to stay abreast to some of the upcoming titles via an enthusiastic reader and bookseller Kenny Coble. But their website is up-to-date and their ‘staff picks’ provide plenty of suggestions. The decor and store atmosphere is both friendly, cozy and well labeled. Like any good bookstore there are books and bookshelves everywhere including immediately upon entry into the shop. The cash wrap is often covered in books and employees look more like college students with a deadline crunch than admin sorting and restocking books. Outside of providing reading at both high and low levels they have that natural Tacoma knack for letting others utilize their space. Their spaces host a number of book clubs, meetups, and events when applicable. The most memorable event was one put on by Aramis Johnson with engineering help from Matt “Baloogz” Clark. For a small moment in time Tacoma had its very own ‘Tiny Desk’ inspired experience called ‘I’ll Keep That in Mind’. Maybe there’s a way back to that in the future.
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Umi Wagoner’s Tacoma: A Young Seoul - KBBQ Burgers
Food trucks have been in an uphill battle with the restaurant community and city of Tacoma for years. It’s a beautiful thing to know that Tacoma’s Health Department is so in-the-know and actively checking their list so thoroughly to ensure all things are up to code. But I have seen it be incredibly frustrating to get great businesses started because it’s the red taped path that leads to a ribbon cutting ceremony. When Burger Seoul was getting started eyes seemed to be on them with a laser focus. Due to the city’s regulations they couldn’t cruise from place to place setting up shop where requested or commissioned by other businesses or organizations. A business model you usually see in other cities that helps build awareness and word of mouth marketing was not allowed here. Since then it seems the city has lightened up a bit but they’re still ready to crack down on inspections at a moment's notice. I’ve seen it happen even at the Tacoma Art Museum.
11:11 - Synchronize Sipping
Sandwiches in Tacoma are a big deal, it makes them easy to find but not all them are worth the bread. 1111 is owned by brothers from Tacoma, it’s nestled right in the center of the Hilltop neighborhood on 11th and MLK Blvd. Since 2012, 1111 has been showing their ability to be consistent with the food, service, experience, commitment to serving Tacoma and its inclusiveness. The coolest thing about their menu is how the vegan side mirrors the original versions of the sandwiches. It’s quite the convenience for friend groups that are diverse in diet. There were once pasta options on the menu as well - but zooming in their focus on the sandwiches is not a bad decision.
Umi Wagoner’s Tacoma: Red Elm Cafe - Hilltop’s Cozy Cafe
Hilltop Tacoma is going through some drastic changes over the last 4 years (2019-2022). It’s no longer the historically Black neighborhood that it once was, full of men and women that served their country and stayed in the PNW to make a better way for their families, inducing a serious White flight that is now attempting to circle back and push out the residents that made the community close knit and family oriented. It’s a shame but it’s the name of the game. That’s how change works good or bad, it affects people and it doesn’t affect everyone the same, for some there is opportunity for others there are empty promises unfulfilled. The change has come and will continue so why not highlight the few that aren’t harming the environment and have become a haven for some?