A long-held dream of many reached fruition this month as East West Bookshop got a fresh, new look!
Painted initially in 2000 before East West first moved into the building at 65th and Roosevelt, years of sun and rain had taken their toll on the paint, which began to look tired and washed out.
An upcoming June reception for Dr. Eben Alexander, author of the New York Times bestselling Proof of Heaven, provided impetus to spruce up the building. As you can see from the new look below, it’s quite a change!
Sounds pretty simple, putting a new coat of paint on the outside, right? Well, here’s the story…
Originally built in the 1940’s, the building was a drugstore for many years before becoming East West. Extensive renovations were done in 2000 in preparation for East West’s move into the building, and the upper courses of brickwork were painted. The building has stucco at street level and a run of brickwork from the stucco up to the roof.
I’d noticed that the brickwork looked funny, and climbing a ladder to inspect, found that the paint was peeling off the mortar between the bricks. This was new! Investigating further, I took a look at the walls. where leaky gutters had turned the bricks green. Imagine my surprise when I picked at the bricks, and found that my pick went right through the wall! This was more that a coat of paint could fix.
Fortunately, the bookstore has a good relationship with our landlord, who promised to get a mason out to look at it. Good to his word, the mason was onsite the next day setting up scaffolding in preparation for working at night. We had our deadline, and the landlord and mason were helping us get there. We were surprised the following day when we saw the scaffolding gone, and the brick untouched. It turned out that the brick was in even worse shape than the mason had imagined, and he had to consult with the landlord about how to proceed.
Next we knew, a scissor lift was delivered to the store. As the name implies, a scissor lift is a platform on wheels that goes up and down 20 feet at the press of a button, and unlike scaffolding, can be moved out of the way when not in use. The mason said that to use scaffolding, new city requirements would require blocking off a traffic lane, hiring an off-duty police officer at $1000 a day to supervise traffic, and oh, would also require a permit that would take 30 days to process. Hearing this, our landlord decided that the scissor lift was cheap at any price.
The brick restoration was extensive and took over a week to complete. As the masons worked on repairs, I scraped off peeling paint between bricks. There were many bricks and lots of peeling paint! Scrape, scrape, scrape in the afternoon sun. I looked enviously from my ladder to the mason on the scissor lift as he moved up, down, back and forth with ease!
We knew we had to pressure-wash the walls to remove accumulated grime, but learned from the mason that the freshly-repaired brickwork required 48 hours to cure before washing. The extra time required beginning pressure-washing a week later than expected, and with the clock ticking, we opted to do it on Memorial Day. We’d been fortunate to get some good advice on surface preparation from paint professionals, especially Damon from American Home Painting and from Bruce Davis of Junction True Value Hardware. Damon recommended the pressure washing, and Bruce an additional step to prepare the mortar for painting.
So the morning of Memorial Day saw Vihaan and me up on ladders first pressure washing, then acid washing the building exterior. It happened to be raining that day, but as I recall, we got wet enough from the washing that we didn’t notice the rain. No matter, we were now ready to paint! Or were we?
Oh no, the gutters were still leaking, preventing walls and mortar from drying enough to paint! Another call to our landlord, who sent out gutter repair people the next day to replace 170 feet of gutter. So by the end of that day, brick had been fixed, building pressure washed, and walls beneath new gutters were drying nicely and soon dry enough to paint.
Both Damon and Bruce had told us that brick, especially the mortar, needs to have a coat of primer paint applied before the final finish coat, so after the mason recommended a good masonry primer, we began to prime the brickwork. Back when the building was constructed, the masons had done an extra-special job and recessed the mortar in the joints between the bricks. It looked nice, but first scraping the paint out of the joints, then painting them with primer required a daunting number of strokes with the paint brush. “You can do it!”, I told my arm, switching arms frequently to balance the load!
As I proceeded with priming, our color coordinators Catharine and Susan actively researched and identified new colors for the walls, signs and stucco panels. Holding little color samples and trying to imagine how they’d look on the building proved impossible, so they narrowed their choices and painted samples on the outside. We looked quite festive at one point, with lively bands of colors painted along the wall.
We set our sights to paint on Sunday, June 2, and our friend Carole graciously agreed to assemble a team of volunteers for the job. So 9 am Sunday saw a whole crew, fortified by high-octane Java from our friend Sara, ready to go. Our tallest team members, Tadhg and Dennis, could reach the tops of windows with ease, so they masked off windows and doors around the building while the rest of us took rollers and brushes and started from the ground. Fearlessly climbing high up a ladder, Mark began painting brick and gutters.
But what would a good tale be without angels and miracles? Our angel, Joanne, a safety officer by profession, uneasily observed us climbing up and down extension ladders all morning, and related some of the ladder accidents she’d encountered professionally. It was pretty high up there, with the highest point some 25 feet up. It didn’t seem particularly high when climbing the ladder, but someone showed me a photo they’d taken from across the street, and it did indeed look pretty high. So after several hours of watching in relative silence, Joanne offered to donate the use of a scissor lift for us to complete the job. We jumped at the offer, of course, and it was there the next day. What a difference it made!
And as to miracles, Dave had a tale to share. Dave and his wife Marilyn had moved to Bellingham a couple years ago after Dave retired from a career in chiropractic. Constantly adjusting patients through the years had left Dave himself with chronic shoulder pain, and when he first heard about painting, he’d thought “Wow, no way, that’s for someone else!”
But he listened to a little inner voice which said “You need to go down and help”, and so Dave and Marilyn made the long trek down I5, complete with detour around the collapsed bridge at Mt. Vernon, to help us at the store. When I handed Dave a roller with a long handle, he thought “Well, maybe I can do this for a half hour until my shoulder locks up”, but gamely began. A half hour went by, then an hour, then an hour and a half, and when Dave and Dennis finally knocked off late in the afternoon, Dave was still going strong—we could hardly get him to set his roller down for lunch!
Dave related later that he’d gone to bed that night thinking “Well, I’m glad I could help today, but I sure hope I can move tomorrow”, and was amazed find the following morning that instead of being ridiculously cramped, his shoulders had never felt better. “A fluke” he thought, and was even more amazed when the morning after that his shoulders were still looser than they had been in years. The third morning, still loose, Dave went to the gym and did every exercise he could think of to test out his shoulders, and still they stayed loose and relaxed. A week later, when Dave emailed me, his shoulders were still as loose as they’d been before he became a chiropractor, all after a day of rolling paint in the intense sun! At that point I realized that I’d missed a Tom Sawyer-style opportunity, and should have asked for payment for the privilege of painting!
Mark and Tadhg had to leave early to start work in the bookstore, and the rest of us labored on into the heat of the afternoon getting things painted. By the end of the day, we’d managed to paint everything that could be reached from the ground, and did it look good!
There was still a daunting amount of work to be done including gutters, high brickwork and miscellaneous doorways at ground level. But we managed to complete it all in the course of the following week, aided immensely by Joanne’s scissor lift, and many hours of assistance from Bryan, Larry and Carole. Bryan graciously rearranged a whole day to come help prime the brickwork, spending hours and hours in the sun applying a glaringly white primer to the brick. Larry came twice for afternoon stints to apply the finish coat, and Carole gamely attacked the time-consuming doorways and window trim that Justin Lee had carefully prepared and masked off.
And by the time Larry and I finally painted the last bricks, 20 feet above the ground, my arm had turned to jelly and could barely manage the up and down button for the lift. My, what an undertaking it was. But did it ever look good!
One of many side tasks was repainting the signs, which required removing the sign faces, changing out the fluorescent bulbs inside, taking the sign faces up the Community in Lynnwood to be disassembled, washed, dried, cleaned with solvent and then painted before being reassembled and taken back to Seattle to be remounted on the walls.
Having just remounted one of the signs, I was standing next to the scissor lift when a woman approached, congratulated me on how well it looked, and asked me for my card. Was she ever surprised when I said that I worked at the bookstore and we were just doing this for fun!
And fun it was. Many hands (with rollers) make a miracle!
By Rick Johnston
Great new things are brewing at East West! Our Tea Garden, serving fine loose-leaf teas and sweets, and offering teas and teaware for sale, opened Saturday, November 22. Stop by to enjoy the wonderful environment and sample the delicious teas.
Bring meaning to your holiday shopping: Come spend time in our soothing environment, and find gifts that have been consciously chosen! We have a wide selection of uplifting, inspiring and fun gifts for family, friends… and even for you! We can also special order books on any subject for you and we are happy to help with gift suggestions. Shop East West first …we appreciate your support!
Join us for 2 special afternoons:
December 7, 12-3 p.m.: Sangha shopping day and Open House, East West Seattle. Join us to celebrate the Grand Opening of Seattle’s Tea Garden. 15% discount for the Sangha on purchases, plus refreshments, tea demos and samples, a chance to win a $75 East West gift certificate and more!
Sunday, December 14, 12-4 p.m., Sangha Open House at East West Bothell. You’ll find great gifts and some surprises, along with delicious refreshments, a 15% discount, and a chance to win a $50 East West gift certificate.
Jyotish and Devi Novak join Hriman and Padma McGilloway, and Steve Bonnell (our tea garden creator, buyer and manager) for an inaugural cup of tea the day before opening.
Products of interest: Save 20% off the hardcover version of The Essence of The Bhagavad Gita, Explained by Paramhansa Yogananda! This is a great time to buy a keepsake copy of this life-changing book.
Do you enjoy videos? We have the wonderfully inspiring DVD Padre Pio, Miracle Man. This beautifully crafted, compelling and devotional film about the modern stigmatist Padre Pio, traces his life and gives a window into his dynamic and radiant consciousness.
East West has been busy in the past few months serving as a bookstore for a number of outside events. Many thanks to the willing volunteers who have helped us to create and staff a mini store especially for these events: Natalia Morales, Carole Bartoo, Mona Meighan, Shawn Peck, Dave Scheer, Michelle Dossett, Barbara Hoppe, Tara Silicio, Kelly Williams, Sebnem Oden, Joanne Takasugawa, Valerie Quarto, Nivritti, Geri Grubbs, Janet Baltzo, Risa Muljadi, Jim Henches, Emily Zillig, Katie Stack, Andra Riffle, Luis Congdon, Cat and Presley!