Dean Kahn

Shock and surprise: Iconic Fairhaven couple moving to Lynden

Village Books founders Chuck and Dee Robinson plans to live in Lynden, so their condominium atop their flagship store in Fairhaven is up for sale. An open house is planned for noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, June 12, 2016.
Village Books founders Chuck and Dee Robinson plans to live in Lynden, so their condominium atop their flagship store in Fairhaven is up for sale. An open house is planned for noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, June 12, 2016. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The owners of Village Books, the store a history writer called the “true motor” of Fairhaven’s business renaissance, are selling their condominium above their business and plan to move to Lynden within the next few weeks.

If that notion sets you back on your heels, you’re not alone.

“Mostly shock,” is how Dee Robinson described many people’s initial reaction to the news. “They connect us to Fairhaven so much they cannot imagine us leaving.”

Chuck and Dee Robinson opened Village Books in 1980. Back then, Fairhaven was a “rather sorry looking place” with empty storefronts and vacant lots, Bellingham historian Brian Griffin says in his new book, “Fairhaven; A History.” Griffin describes Village Books, and Colophon Cafe next door, as game-changing anchor businesses in Fairhaven, twin beacons of hope for the down-in-the-dumps district.

Village Books became so successful that the store moved into a large new building in 2004, with two condos on the top floor. The Robinsons previously lived in apartments and two houses in Bellingham but were always intrigued by the idea of living above a bookstore.

Their condo is wired into the store’s phone system, with work just a short elevator ride away.

“It made our lives so much easier,” Dee said. “It was the best commute in town.”

Their balcony boasts stunning views of the district, waterfront and islands beyond, with Fairhaven Village Green directly below.

“We always tell people that we’ve got a great backyard, and the parks department mows it for us,” Chuck said.

Asking price for the 1,600-square-foot condo is $749,000.

Now the Robinsons, both 68, are readying themselves for full retirement, sometime. Dee considers herself 90 percent retired; she doesn’t spend floor time at Village Books or Paper Dreams, their adjacent card and gift shop, but does confer with store leaders.

Chuck remain busier with the job. He mostly does office work, and helps with sales during the peak holiday season.

He has spent more time in Lynden the past year preparing for the opening of Village Books’ second store, in the newly remodeled Waples Mercantile Building.

Chuck said Lynden reminds them of the small Midwest farm communities where they grew up — Chuck in Galva, Ill., and Dee in Hastings, Neb.

“We really fell in love with Lynden as a town,” he said.

On the plus side for them, Lynden is a less expensive place to live, even though their house there is more than twice the size of their condo. The house is only a half mile from the Lynden store, and sale of their condo will provide extra money for retirement.

On the other hand, they have had to box up more than a ton of books for the move, they will miss the many Fairhaven restaurants within easy walking distance, and they are leaving a place that they love.

The Robinsons also know they will endeavor to sell Village Books sometime. When that happens, they might not want to live above the store, and the new owner might not appreciate having the former owners directly overhead.

“It’s better to get out of their way,” Dee said.

Dean Kahn: 360-715-2291

Open house

People can tour Chuck and Dee Robinson’s condominium above Village Books, 1200 11th St., from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, June 12. Asking price: $749,000. Details: real estate agent Bliss Goldstein, 360-739-1685, bliss@windermere.com.

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