One of the fixtures and core businesses in Old Town Bandon is the Winter River Books and Gallery on 2nd Street, across from the Continuum Building. Over its years of existence, owners Grover Hatcher and Debby Johnson have made Winter River Books the go-to for books and gift items for locals and regular visitors, and it is a popular spot among tourists looking for a good vacation read, souvenirs, and gifts for friends and family.
Grover laughs telling the story of their move to Bandon from Los Angeles. Unlike most people he’s talked to about their moves to new homes, he and Debby did no research before finding Bandon. They were on vacation, seeking out a place with fewer people, more trees, and an ocean for Grover to surf, and just ended up in Bandon in 1977. They made the decision to move to our beachside town permanently. They bought some land south of town, moved into a trailer on the land while building their house, and started their own business making and selling pottery.
In 1990, Grover and Debby decided to get into the bookstore business. Center Books, which opened in the Continuum Building in 1983 and eventually moved across the street in Winter River’s current location, went up for sale. The couple bought it, renamed it Winter River Books and shortly after moved into town to be closer to their new store. They kept Center Books selection of world religion books, children’s books, crafts, and artwork as part of their inventory, but over the years, they expanded the selection of books and gifts as well as the stores physical space. The store is now double the original size, occupying 3,000 square feet and is full of a wide variety of books.
Winter River truly has books for everyone. It is a general bookstore featuring best sellers, local authors, self-help, mysteries, science fiction, humor, and everything else one would expect to find, but they also specialize in Indie best sellers, local history, cookbooks, nature, body/mind/spirit, and religion/philosophy books. Shoppers can also find Nepalese singing bowls as well as fun and unique cards, jewelry, hats, scarves, and purses. Unlike other such eclectic stores, Winter River never feels overwhelmingly cluttered or disorganized. It is a very comfortable place to spend an hour where things are easy to find, and the friendly staff is available to help.
Winter River Books also makes it very easy to order books online. They have an extensive selection of available books, and as they receive deliveries twice a week, local online shoppers can pick up their order within just a few days. For those needing delivery to their homes, shipping costs are as low as $3.99, and shipping is free for orders over $50.
Grover and Debby believe they really lucked out with Bandon. They have seen it evolve and grow over the nearly 40 years they have been here, but they recognize its uniqueness as an Oregon coast town. They appreciate the natural beauty, fantastic beaches, and tight community, and they recognize the differences between it and the more crowded beach towns further north.
They also find that they have gotten very lucky with their community of merchants. The Greater Bandon Association, they explain, has been growing and is quite active. The Christmas tree lighting and Shop Bandon for the Holidays promotion is a draw in the winter, and Alive After Five and the Wine Walk in the warmer months bring people outside in Old Town, encouraging tourists arriving in the late afternoons and early evenings to get out of their cars and into the shops and restaurants.
Grover and Debby feel very grateful for the support of some of Bandon’s most well-known authors. Art Spinella, who sadly passed away, meant a lot to Winter River. He had the Bandon spirit epitomized, explains Debby. His books, mainly mysteries featuring Nick Drago, are well-loved by locals. They are set in Bandon and greater Coos County, and some of the characters are recognizable to readers who have spent time here. Mr. Spinella regularly did book signings at Winter River and for extra fun would bring his motorcycle, old cars, or friends. He is greatly missed.
Another well-known local author featured at Winter River is Timothy Zahn, author of the George Lucas-approved Star Wars series, the Thrawn Trilogy. His relationship with Winter River began before he even moved to Bandon when he was walking through Old Town with his real estate agent and saw his own book in the window of the bookstore. Mr. Zahn has been very supportive of Winter River and has also done many signings there. A cult hero, he draws crowds of fans from all over, and he is always happy to interact with them.
Winter River, of course, would not be as successful as it is without its loyal customer base which is comprised of Bandon residents, regular visitors, and all other tourists in Bandon who find their way to the bookstore and enjoy their books, cards, and gifts. Many faces and personalities have become very familiar in the store as they return again and again.
Grover and Debby feel very lucky in having found Bandon, the acquisition of the Old Town bookstore, and the ability to make this place their home. What the couple may not realize is just how much Bandon has lucked out having them and Winter River Books and Gallery as integral parts of Old Town and the town of Bandon.