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The Illustrated Store, Portland, Oregon

A brief history.
By Carl Bennett.

Copyright © 2001-2018 by Carl Bennett. All Rights Reserved.

The Illustrated Store Flyer, an early promotional piece for the Morrison location, was nothing more than a piece of paper with a small ad and instructions how to fold it up into a paper airplane.

A promotional flyer for John Varley’s autograph party at The Illustrated Store in 1977.

The Illustrated Store was Portland’s first exclusively science fiction and fantasy bookstore. The title of a Ray Bradbury book was weakly adapted for the bookstore’s name.

Carl Bennett opened the bookstore’s doors at 916 SW Morrison Street (above, right) in downtown Portland on 16 February 1976. The downtown store faced the south entrance to The Galleria, a retail mall, and was inappropriately sandwiched between a jeweler and a furrier.

In 1976, The Illustrated Store was mentioned in a Publisher’s Weekly article noting the rise of science fiction specialty bookstores in the United States.

Also in 1976, The Illustrated Store sponsored the Portland premiere of Andrei Tarkovsky’s science fiction film Solaris (1972), which was based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem.

The Morrison Street location was demolished and replaced by a mixed-use retail and parking structure in 1977.

In November 1976, the bookstore relocated to 1808 East Burnside (photo, below), where it remained until 1979. Just a few blocks up Burnside was Garvin and Levin, Booksellers, which featured a fine selection of science fiction and fantasy books gathered by Chuck Garvin and Jeff Levin, and farther up still was Music Millennium, where I spent most of what I earned on imported records. The store blossomed in this location, where we stocked nearly everything SF&F that was in print and carried a number of magazines, fantasy art books, art calendars, and science fiction and fantasy LP recordings.

Visitors to The Illustrated Store included Frederick Pohl, John Varley, Ursula K. LeGuin (who actually didn’t come in, but browsed the display windows downtown), John Shirley, and others of note. We hosted John Varley’s very first autograph party, for his premiere novel The Ophiuchi Hotline, on 11 June 1977. I also tried to coax the hermit-like Richard E. Geis, publisher of Science Fiction Review, out of his house and into the shop for a visit, but I ended up visiting his place instead. The Burnside store was also the early home of The Portland Science Fiction Society, established in 1977.

The Illustrated Store was eventually sold to Don Riordan and his partner of the comic book store Future Dreams (also located on Burnside) in the summer of 1979 and I moved to Seattle in November. The Illustrated Store became part of Future Dreams, which now stocked science fiction and fantasy books and magazines along with comic books. Don Riordan’s Future Dreams eventually occupied the entire building at 1800 East Burnside, where for years the back room still revealed ghostly remnants of its Illustrated Store pedigree. In 2001, Don moved his store up the street to 2205 East Burnside, which has since again moved.

The former Illustrated Store bookstore building on Burnside is currently the home of the East Burn restaurant and taphouse.