The dwindling number of bookshops in Tacoma can be discouraging, and has left me wondering whether brick-and-mortar booksellers were a cultural dodo on the fast track to extinction, or a hardy species clinging tooth and nail to the endangered list.
Thankfully, I’m pleased to have discovered Native Quest, a newly opened Native American cultural center, bookstore and café at 2354 S. Jefferson Ave. (formerly Commencement Bay Coffee Company).
This nonprofit organization bucks the tide – and represents an important addition to local cultural life – with its showcase: a wonderfully airy, light-filled bookstore boasting 80,000 volumes and 6,000 titles covering all aspects of Indian history and culture. The collection is amongst the largest of its kind in the world. Native Quest is a great place to meet for coffee or lunch, to have a meeting, or to learn about the historical underpinnings of Tacoma and its tribes. The public is invited to enjoy it all: Native Quest’s storefront and art-lined walls, restaurant, music and scheduled performances.
Of course, books and lattés go together like Strunk & White, and between browsing the aisles one can hit the café where Jeff Medicine Bear whips up specialties including savory buffalo stew, Northwest salmon and turkey sandwiches, down-home pastries and pies, as well as a mean espresso. The café is open 7am-7pm, Monday through Saturday; the bookstore is open 9am-7pm.
Native Quest also features a performance stage where live music and storytelling take place (click here for upcoming events); other areas of the voluminous space are being developed to hold a museum, a library, a research center, and meeting rooms.
The nonprofit community center is run by members of tribes from across the country, and will serve more than 10,000 persons of Alaska Native and American Indian descent, in Pierce County alone. A major goal is to assist Native Americans in tracing their tribal heritage through its reference center. Native Quest offers a valuable information resource for all members of the Tacoma community.