For more than 50 years, Cameron's Books and Magazines has stood at the corner of Southwest 3rd Avenue and Stark Street. Beloved as much for its eclectic selection of pre-owned hardcovers and paperbacks as a breathtaking collection of past periodicals, the shop now stands as downtown's last independent bookstore open to the public.
That won't be true for much longer, though.
When the ownership group behind upstairs strip club Golden Dragon purchased the surrounding property housing Cameron's, owner Jeff Frase was worried his rent would go up. Instead, shortly after Labor Day, he received notification that Cameron's must vacate the premises by November 30.
"I don't begrudge," Frase says. "It's their building, the year was up, but, yeah, it was a bit of a shock."
Though founded in 1938, the shop relocated twice within the same small patch of downtown before finding its current home below a second-floor Chinese restaurant in the early '60s. Its location along the edge of Old Town attracted a wildly disparate clientele of local luminaries and visiting notables. City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly worked there, and Pink Martini's Thomas Lauderdale would continually haunt the sheet music section. Actor Richard Harris came in looking for a Life Magazine feature on himself, while Bob Dylan stopped by to grab a Time cover story on tourmate Merle Haggard from the shop's window display.
Frase was hired on as a clerk by Cameron's second owner in 1982 and took over the business seven years later. At age 67, he says he's inclined to just retire. But his longest-tenured current employee is less willing to walk away. Crystal Zingsheim, who oversees of Cameron's rare books department, has launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of relocating the store and its inventory before their eviction date.
She is particularly passionate about preserving the shop's periodicals archive. A 2013 article for the Virginia Quarterly Review ranked Cameron's stock of bygone journals and glossy magazines as the nation's largest, and Zingsheim counts their archive as second only to the Library of Congress.
"Requests come from artists, designers, researchers, technologists, scientific institutions," Zingsheim says. "When productions around the country need otherwise unavailable periodicals as set props or reference material, the filmmakers send us an order specifying time period, historical context, and the mood of the scene they want to develop, and we pull the matching documents from our collection."
Zingsheim has consulted with Hollywood Theater executive director Doug Whyte about transitioning toward a not-for-profit organizational structure along the lines of formerly-imperiled Portland video store Movie Madness. She also hopes to eventually digitize the contents of their collection and offer access to them online.