Live, work, play: Emily Powell

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Articles - July/August 2012
Monday, July 09, 2012

 

BY JON BELL

0712 LiveWorkPlay EmilyPowell
Powell's CEO Emily Powell took over from her father, Michael, two years ago.
// Photo by Sierra Breshears

Emily Powell always knew she wanted to run her family’s namesake bookstore. “When I was little, I would tell people that I was going to drive the bookie truck someday,” says Powell, 33, referencing an old pickup her father, Michael Powell, used for delivering books. She studied urban planning and design at Haverford College in Pennsylvania and worked in San Francisco before returning to Powell’s in 2004. After spending six years working throughout the company, Powell took the reins in July 2010. Powell, who is married to John Connor, is involved with Caldera, the Innovation Partnership and Camp Fire Columbia, and she is a board member at the International Carpe Diem Foundation.

LITERARY LOVE

“Every day here is different, that’s for sure. We are in an incredible business. Selling books and ideas, being engaged in that creative universe and feeling like we are an important part of the Portland community is an amazing job to have. But my dad and I were talking about this and how we don’t feel like we really own the company. It’s like Portland and our community of readers own the store.”

THEY SAY I’M . . .

“Late. Always running around, usually with a coffee and a scone in my hand, not answering emails. I don’t know; everyone’s their own worst critic. Hopefully [colleagues and staff] would describe me as affable and, as much as this is serious work, that I take it as lightly as possible. I’m just really honored to work with a group of folks who are as invested in Powell’s future and success as much as
I am.”

EBOOKS — HERE?

“I read on an iPad and an iPhone, but if given the choice, all the time I would choose a regular book. Our challenge is essentially to curate an incredible collection that people find dynamic and engaging. Whether they want it in one form or another should be irrelevant. I don’t think I’m sticking my head in the sand when I say, however, that books are not going away.”

SPARE TIME

“I like to travel when I can, but honestly, most of the time I like to be around. I love Oregon, so I get around Oregon a fair bit. I like to rock climb at Smith Rock. I run. Obviously I read, though not nearly as much as I’d like to. I bike; I have a dog. I’m so boring. I’m all of the typical Portland things. I will say that I’m not a gardener, though. My garden looks like Jurassic Park right now.”

CROSSROADS

“With our industry in such evolution, it’s hard to imagine what the landscape will look like for us in the future. By the time I retire, I hope in a way that our store doesn’t look fundamentally different but, at the same time, that we’ve continued to evolve and be compelling and exciting. I hope to have a family someday, too — knock on wood. I might have to wait a long time for my succession plan, though..."

Correction: In the print version of this story the name of Emily Powell's husband was incorrect. This story has been updated to correct the name. Emily Powell is married to John Connor.

 

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