Mary Lou McAuley, founder of the bookstore that would later become Jupiter’s Rare & Used Books in Cannon Beach, recounted the bookstore’s origin story during a celebration of the store’s 25th anniversary.
In 1987, McAuley was living in Duvall, Wash., working at a district court, and every day when she drove home, she thought, “There must be something else I can do.”
Then, one night behind the wheel, she saw in her mind’s eye a banner headline reading: “Open a used bookstore in Cannon Beach, Oregon.”
McAuley had never visited Cannon Beach before, nor owned her own business. Nevertheless, she ventured into the small coastal town with her sister, and within the weekend, McAuley had rented the space and a house nearby.
She ended up owning the bookstore for only a short time before selling it to John Taylor, who gave it its current name.
But the little shop, she said, had become her inner touchstone: It helped her remember that time she listened to her heart and acted on what it told her.
“And if you can do that once with something you love, you can do it again, and again, and again,” she said.
As McAuley spoke into the microphone during the outdoor celebration Sept. 20, a reverent hush fell upon the crowded courtyard behind Jupiter’s.
Finally, she said, “I’m so happy that this store is still here and under the watchful, enthusiastic stewardship of such really, really wonderful people.” Then she added, “So that’s now my ‘great notion’ got here.”
“Great notion” was the evening’s watchword for a very special reason.
By happy coincidence, 2014 marks both Jupiter’s 25th year in business and the 50th birthday of Oregon author Ken Kesey’s monumental 1964 novel, “Sometimes a Great Notion,” considered by some to be the quintessential work of Pacific Northwest literature.
Watt Childress, co-owner of Jupiter’s, and author Matt Love, whom Childress calls “the curator of Kesey-ian culture,” chose to marry these two milestone into a one-night tribute to the printed word. Love, himself wrote a book about the making of the 1970 film adaptation called “Sometimes a Great Movie: Paul Newman, Ken Kesey and the Filming of the Great Oregon Novel.”
“(Kesey’s book) is a passport to living on the Oregon Coast,” Love said. “I mean, if you live here, you almost you have to read it. Even if you quit, because then you can say you quit; a lot of people have quit ... There are stretches in the novel that are difficult for readers, that you have to re-read two, three, four, five times, but people are willing to do it.”
Dozens of attendees — authors, poets, compulsive readers, Kesey fanatics and Jupiter’s loyalists — filed into the cozy outdoor common area, seeking fellowship with one another through a shared love of Oregon art, culture and storytelling.
Jupiter’s history and Kesey idolatry came together even in the person of John Taylor, who owned Jupiter’s in the 1990s and who gave a blustery interpretation of Henry Stamper, the patriarch of Kesey’s tome.
Taylor said that one needs to be an idealist to make an independent bookstore happen, “because it’s hard to make money off a little place like this.”
Watt Childress and his wife, Jennifer Childress, have co-owned Jupiter’s for 10 years, and it has been his “anchor,” he said.
For Jennifer Childress, whose family moved to Cannon Beach in 1977, the bookstore “represents the old Cannon Beach,” she said. “All the variety of books that are packed within that little bookstore is not just important for Cannon Beach but important for our world, that we don’t limit what we’re reading.”
The cozy bookstore is, Watt Childress said, a “place where words are used in community to talk about things that are important to people. It’s a place that inspires great conversation — a magical, whimsical flow of ideas. On a great day, I may not make much money, but I meet the most amazing people.”
At length, Watt Childress offered up his own “great notion”: the print revival of the Upper Left Edge, a newspaper founded in 1992 by Billy Hults (yet another Jupiter’s owner) that has existed exclusively online since 2002.
Before it went on hard-copy hiatus for 12 years, the Edge, then a monthly publication, could be found in shops and pubs on the North Coast and beyond.
“It would begin a conversation in the community that would be ongoing for that whole month until the next issue came out, because everybody would be able to get a free copy somewhere,” local author Douglas Deur said.
Watt Childress has sustained the Edge’s online presence since Hults’ death and reintroduced the print version with the 2014 Fall Equinox Edition, which he edited and published.
He hopes to make the Edge a biannual publication, with the next issue to be printed in the spring, he said.
But since the Edge went online, “because it’s out in cyberspace with everything else, it’s a little harder to maintain that same sense of connection to community, because not everybody’s reading it at the same time,” Deur said. “Not everybody’s relating to it in the same way.”
The same could be said of how readers now relate to independent bookstores like Jupiter’s.
As small-scale bookstores give way to chain stores, online shopping and e-readers, places like Jupiter’s increasingly become remnants of “something that’s fallen by the wayside that, hopefully, we can revive and rejuvenate,” Watt Childress said. “We need to recoup some of that hands-on, brick-and-mortar gathering-place type of feel.”