History

History of Iconoclast

 

Iconoclast books was founded in 1993, to very little fanfare. After many years of working in restaurants and bike shops, Gary Hunt, a practicing ski bum, set out to find his niche in life. He traveled. He worked in more restaurants and bike shops. He grew weary of that and more importantly, he felt vaguely unfulfilled. He had a friend, Royce Wilson, who managed a used bookstore in the University district of Seattle and they would often talk late into the evening over red wine or scotch while Royce outlined the basics of the used book business to Gary. This led to a period of a few months in which Gary went around to garage sales and thrift stores buying books and selling them, or attempting to sell them, to used bookstores throughout the city. This is what is known as book scouting, and Gary discovered that he had a certain knack for it. Of course, the bookstores never bought everything that he brought in to sell them, but they bought just enough to cover his expenses with a little left over to buy more books. This was like starting in the mail room, learning by hard experience which books you could buy for 50 cents and turn a profit on and which ones you couldn't.

It wasn't long before a tidy little stack of boxes of books had been built up and they no longer fit into the trunk of the car. And so Iconoclast Books was born.

At first it was just on weekends in the street market on Capitol Hill, with weekdays devoted to scouring the yard sales for choice inventory. By the end of the summer there were enough boxes of books built up to open our first store, in Greenlake, a suburb of Seattle. That first year of selling books was more like a year of reading books. Sales advanced slowly but surely, and there were countless hours in the day for literary pursuits. It was the dream that everyone who dreams of owning a bookstore dreams about, surrounded by books, with very few pesky customers to interrupt your reading.

This went on for about a year until Gary received the summons from Sun Valley. Like a migratory animal, he was being compelled to return to the mountains of Idaho by biological and physical forces seemingly incomprehensible but irresistible. He packed up the bookstore into a rental truck whose wheels began to splay outward, and then unpacked it and went and got a bigger rental truck and packed it up again, and headed off to Sun Valley.

We settled into our first location in Ketchum in 1994 in a basement studio of about 800 sq ft off of 4th street. We bought and sold used books and discovered a new service called Interloc that allowed us to locate obscure and out of print titles on the internet, a service that revolutionized the used book industry. Ketchum and Sun Valley took to us pretty quickly, and we started to grow rapidly. It wasn't long before we added new books to the mix of used, out of print, and antiquarian titles that we had traditionally dealt with and we outgrew our space, forcing us to move to new quarters.

We have since moved the entire bookstore three times, eventually ending up here at our current location on Sun Vally Road in the Christiania Building. Our Hailey location opened on September 13th of 2004, adding a second Iconoclast storefront to the Wood River Valley. (Edit: Hailey location closed 2007.) Gary still reads a lot, but he is nostalgic about that first year of selling books in Seattle, when he had very few customers and nothing but time on his hands.

 

 

In Memorium

Tragically, Gary passed away after a fatal car accident in May of 2008. He is survived by his wife, Sarah, and four amazing children.

Sarah runs the bookstore to this day, and she can often be seen in the cafe, book in hand as she converses with customers who have been coming to Iconoclast for years. Though the bookstore has downsized just a little, Iconoclast Books continues to thrive in the beautiful valley it calls home.