by Michaela Mulligan
Waiting to cross the street from Riverfront Park, you see a blue and yellow sign sticks out from the mainly gray background. A window in the store is decorated with Christmas lights and a big, red inflatable heart to draw the passerby in to shop for Valentines Day. More windows are painted with scenes of unicorns and “Adventure Time” characters interacting with each other. Walk in and find a range of products from socks to action figures to clever bumper stickers, all reminiscent of a character from To Kill a Mockingbird who had an eclectic collection of his own.
Continue down the street to be greeted by another Mockingbird character and his love of coffee. The smell of coffee is present in the air entering the store, but the source isn’t clear. Vintage books, tea assortments, and other gifts stand in the way of the coffee shop hidden in the back, full with customers. Boo Radley’s and Atticus Coffee and Gifts are more than just characters from a novel, they are businesses specializing in selling gifts, home decor and coffee.
For 24 years, Boo Radley’s in downtown Spokane has offered an odd selection of products from local artists and pop culture items. It is not unusual to find a cat mug in one part of the store and find a children’s book in another section. According to the Spokesman Review, in 2009, the owners of Boo Radley’s, Andy and Kris Dinnison, bought 4 Seasons Coffee and renamed it Atticus Coffee and Gifts to keep with the To Kill a Mockingbird theme.
Visitors and locals alike visit Boo Radley’s to find items not traditionally sold at a gift shop. While there are products from Spokane artists such as Harold Balazs, you won’t find a snowglobe of Spokane or magnets with Riverfront Park on them. “It’s not generic – pretty unique,” said employee Erik Rockliffe. “A lot of really cool things you can only get here and a lot of cool shirts. As far as gift shops go, it’s more fun and way different.”
People who shop at Boo Radley’s not only catch a glimpse of the culture in Spokane, they also support the local economy. Employee Vanessa Halls thinks people should shop at Boo Radley’s because, “It’s a small, locally owned business; every dollar you spend here stays in the actual Spokane community. It’s the kind of store where you can find the sort of gifts you’d like to get yourself. We have so much stuff and such a large variety of things to buy that you can shop for basically anyone here.”
Three doors down from Boo Radley’s, a black sign hangs from the building with the name Atticus printed in white and a finch sitting on a branch below the name. The front of the shop acts as a gift shop with a focus on selling bulk coffee and teas and other locally made merchandise. Past all of the gifts a full service coffee bar hides in the back of the store with smiling baristas waiting to take your order.
Before it was Atticus, 4 Seasons, Spokane’s original coffee roaster, used the space as a retail store as well as a place to roast their coffee. The owners wanted to get out of the retail side of 4 Seasons to focus more on roasting their coffee. As a result, the owners of Boo Radley’s decided to buy the space and transform it into Atticus Coffee and Gifts. Since then, the Inlander has named Atticus the “Best Single-Location Coffee Shop” multiple times with their “Best of” awards.
When customers come into Atticus, employee Jen Menzer wants them to feel like “…they are a part of our family that we have established here. I want them to feel comfortable asking questions and checking everything out and to just feel like when they come in, this is their place.”
Like Boo Radley’s, Atticus specializes in selling work from local artists as well as collaborations with other small businesses within Spokane. People who come into Atticus can find a range of products from items to decorate their home with to coffee and tea to fill their mugs up. Often you will find employees talking to customers while they’re shopping or waiting to answer questions about which coffee is best to buy.
“I love the customers that come in,” Menzer said. “I love all of the stuff that we have. I think that we have a lot of really neat products and it’s all stuff that would personally buy myself. So it’s like getting to work in a really cool environment and with great people.”
You don’t have to read To Kill a Mockingbird to get a feel for the characters. Walk down Howard Street in Spokane to get to know Boo Radley and his odd collection of items as well as Atticus Finch and his coffee addiction for yourself.