New Carnation bookstore fufills resident’s lifelong dream

Duvall resident Christa Charter opens Bear and Bee Used Books in downtown Carnation.

Just a day before she’s set to open, Christa Charter is rushing to put the final touches on her new bookstore in downtown Carnation.

Since leasing her new space in September, she’s been hard at work scanning all of her books into a CLZ inventory database, building cozy places for people to sit, and having her husband help build shelving.

She was so preoccupied, in fact, that she passed over barcodes in favor of colored dots — like you’d find at a yard sale — to indicate prices. With a day to go, she still had to tag the nonfiction section that her daughter spent until midnight the night before organizing.

“I was down to 48 hours and it was like, let the sticker madness begin,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to it being boring.”

On Oct. 21, Charter opened the doors to Bear and Bee Used Books along Tolt Avenue, achieving a lifelong dream in the process.

Like the first draft of any manuscript, there are bound to be a few hiccups for the new store owner, but like a good writer, she isn’t letting that shake her.

“I’ve gotten over the idea that something bad is going to happen to balance the scales, but sometimes it’s like, how could I possibly be this happy,” she said. “I’m obnoxiously happy.”

The outside of Bear and Bee Used Books in Carnation. The Valley’s newest book store is at 4473 Tolt Avenue. Photo Conor Wilson / Valley Record.

The outside of Bear and Bee Used Books in Carnation. The Valley’s newest book store is at 4473 Tolt Avenue. Photo Conor Wilson / Valley Record.

Always a writer, ever since her third-grade teacher recognized her talents, Charter has spent her professional career working as a copywriter and community manager for video games at Microsoft, while self-publishing several mystery novels on the side.

But recently she felt a massive case of writer’s block, feeling like there were no words left, and became frustrated about not being compelled to write. Without writing, she asked, what was her identity, what was her purpose?

One day, though, while reading in her office, dog on lap, she was staring at a bird-feeder, “watching the world go by,” when a eureka moment struck – a bookstore, a used bookstore.

It was then that the Duvall resident dove headfirst into finding a space for her newest pursuit, leasing the space between Carnation Tattoo and Tolt Legal Services, securing books from McDonald’s Book Exchange in Redmond, Facebook groups and former customers of Duvall Books.

In doing so, she is filling a void that has been missing in the Valley since Duvall Books closed a few years back — having a used bookstore in the Valley.

“There’s been so many people who walk by and say ‘are you open yet?’ or ‘Thank you for doing this, we need this,’” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better place. I’m really glad it ended up in Carnation.”

There are certainly downsides to opening a bookstore in an era where ebooks, online shopping and audio books are becoming more prevalent, Charter said, but it is the mysterious allure of used books that gives Bear and Bee its charm.

“The magic of a used bookstore is you don’t go looking for something in particular,” she said. “You go in to see what they have and what you would never have thought of in a million years.”

Charter’s vision for the space is a community garden, but for books, where residents will sit down, enjoy a cup of tea, spend time in, and potentially host a book club meeting or two.

“I hope they don’t see this as just a bookstore,” she said. “This is a safespace. I want everyone, especially the kids in town, to know they’re welcome here and they’re welcome to be their entire selves.”

Check it out

Bear and Bee Used Books is located at 4473 Tolt Avenue in Carnation. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6. The shop accepts book donations on Wednesday. You can find them online at