SEASIDE – Like many 15-year-olds, Alexa Butler was in search of a summer job.
That summer, she was drawn by the “help wanted” sign in the window at Beach Books in Seaside. She had always loved reading.
“I can get paid to talk to people about books that I love? What’s better than that?” Butler said.
What the 15-year-old Butler didn’t anticipate was that 11 years later the book store would become both her career and her home.
Anyone who has perused Beach Books in the past decade most likely has met Butler, greeting customers with a smile behind the front desk or shelving books at the store wedged at the corner of Holladay Drive and Broadway. She loves helping customers who wander into the store as a refuge, attempting to escape the chaos of the beach.
Tags with handwritten recommendations from Butler and other staff members hang from books on the shelf.
“There’s so much out there. I like young adult, fantasy,” Butler said. “But probably not sad, ‘The Notebook’-type books.”
When she’s not at the store, Butler likes to travel and, well, read more books.
But what has kept the Seaside native at Beach Books for the long haul is not just her love of literature, but also for the woman who hired her.
Karen Emmerling, the owner of Beach Books, remembers having an instant connection with Butler, to the point where she trusted Butler to run the store alone on her first day.
“Her math teacher, who is a good friend of mine, recommended her,” Emmerling said. “And said that maybe she wasn’t all that good at math, but she was very responsible. I just trusted she was going to do it right.”
Over the years, the relationship slowly progressed from co-workers to friends, and then friends into family.
The two joked about keeping sleeping bags upstairs for long days worked during the summer rush. Their conversations behind the counter are laced with laughs and inside jokes.
One of Butler’s favorite memories was throwing Emmerling a surprise birthday party in the store.
“I had no idea that when I was in high school that I would be treated like a daughter,” Butler said.
Since then, Emmerling has entrusted her with more responsibilities. For the past few years, she has sent Butler to regional and national bookseller’s conventions and conferences to hone her skills and network with authors.
One day, she could see passing the baton to Butler.
“She knows books so well, and if she’s passionate about a book, you aren’t leaving without it,” Emmerling laughed. “She’s engaging and she’s going to make a great bookseller.”