Steep & Story offers tea and book titles

“With steam from a neighboring business accenting the logo, the Steep & Story teapot, at right, looks like it’s ready to serve tea. Photo by Bonnie West) If Michele Barasso is sobbing when you enter her Steep & Story used book store on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, don’t let it bother you. She’s just deep into the kinds of stories she enjoys the most-true ones. I love tear-jerkers, she said, like the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.Barasso and her husband, Jonathan Laden, opened their book store Sept. 1 and exchanged wedding vows a few weeks later.Barasso said after Laden got his MBA at the University of Seattle Business School, We asked ourselves, ‘How can we get deeper in debt?’ And this was it!Laden said he had always wanted to be a writer and a small part of his dream was to own a book store. Now I’m doing both and I’m very happy, he said. A life-long science-fiction fan, Laden has completed the first draft of his fantasy/science-fiction novel with 75,000 words.I’m a reader, not a writer, said Barasso of her interest in books.She said she believes there are never enough book stores in any town. They compliment each other with their many niches, she said. The beauty of a used book store is that it’s like going on a treasure hunt–and finding treasure every time.Visitors to Steep & Story will find books of fiction, non-fiction, religion, mystery, history, science and nature, cook books, self help books, biographies and autobiographies, books on antiques, children’s books, and even a section on Pacific Northwest history.Laden said for any customer who can’t find their treasure on a visit to their store, he will conduct a search to find the requested book at no charge. We also buy used books, he added. And we’re told we offer very good prices for them.Laden and his wife love being surrounded by books–which became literal when they purchased 8,000 books from a Seattle book store chain cutting back on inventory.Their store is a cozy, well-lit place to spend quiet time in. There are long, roomy pews from a turn-of-the-century Tacoma church to sit on with a good book and enjoy a pot of the many teas on the Steep & Story menu. They include fruit teas, Japanese Sencha or Genmaicha, herbal teas, Ceylonese teas, green teas, and black and Oolong teas. If a customer isn’t sure which tea to choose there is a rack of small, tea-filled jars for the customer to open and take a whiff of before making a choice. The teas can be enjoyed at the shop, or purchased in bulk and taken home.And we’re ordering 11 more teas, Barasso said.Soda, French-pressed coffee, water, and a pomegranate elixir from a medieval recipe are available, as well as packaged snacks. In addition to new and used books, visitors to Steep & Story can purchase new items like lamps designed to resemble teapots, bookends, teapots in all shapes, sizes and colors, and coffee/tea mugs.We also want to provide a meeting place for the community, Laden added. Our shelves are on wheels and we can just wheel them out of the way for more room. We had a book club start when some folks were having tea and mentioned it would be nice to have a book club. I said ‘Start one,’ so they did.It’s good to have a literary community that gathers somewhere and wants to build on that, Barasso said.The couple is hoping community members will share their love of words by attending on-going poetry and prose events at the store this next year.Poetry Night, presented by the Puget Sound Poetry Connection, will be held Friday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m., Spoken Word of Tacoma (SPOT) will host the Prose or Poetry event where attendees are welcome to read up to five minutes of original work.Everyone is welcome to take part in the open mike sessions, Laden said. Or just come those nights to listen. These are both held each month.Steep & Story is located at 1936 Pacific Avenue. The hours are: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are ways each of us could make more, Laden said of the couple’s venture. But this is about life satisfaction and being part of something we want to be involved with every day; providing good teas, helping people find their books, and being part of a good community.The store’s number is 253/274-0090, and the web site address is: “