Say it isn't so: Fillipi's is going out of business after 50 years

In the minds of those who keep track of such unofficial things, it might be considered one of Seattle's last best places.

So the news of its closure brings no joy.

Fillipi Book and Record Shop, the funky warren of rooms packed with books and vintage vinyl perched on the brow of Capitol Hill for more than 50 years, is closing. Owner Brenda Fillipi isn't sure when the doors will shut for good. In the meantime, everything in the store is 50 percent off.

The closure is not about money, as one might expect. The building is paid for.

"I'm closing to retire," Fillipi said, adding that there's no one else in the family to take the business over as she did from her parents.

"I'm not interested in having the bookstore under another name," she added.

The Fillipi name goes way back in Seattle book selling history.

Tall, quiet and good-looking, Ted Fillipi met his future wife Kits in the San Francisco bookstore where he worked in the early 1930s. The couple moved to Seattle, Kits' hometown, and opened their first bookshop on Third Avenue in downtown in 1935.

The hard economic times eventually forced the Fillipis to operate their business out of their Madrona house. Brenda, as a little girl, assumed everyone's home was packed with books and served as a hangout for artists and writers.

In the early 1950s the Fillipis opened a storefront near the Paramount Theatre before settling into their current digs a couple of years later.

Ted died in 1985, followed by Kits in 1987. Brenda started working in her parents' business in the 1970s.

The wedge-shaped bookstore, sited on prime real estate, is unique: no computers, no rent to pay, little overhead. Brenda has been able to keep it going with the financial help of her husband, a lobbyist in Olympia.

"My parents had a hard time getting financing from the bank" to purchase the building, Brenda said in an earlier interview. "It was the best thing they ever did."

The store has long been a destination for music hunters and book lovers. With its time warp, retro feel, it's also been discovered by a new generation of seekers. When the Fillipis first moved in, an upholstery shop and Chinese laundry stood next door. Over the years, the bookstore took over those spaces, which explains why the shop unfolds, room by book-lined room, with haphazard charm.

The record collection is remarkable: big-band 78s, opera, spoken word, classical, blue grass, harmonica and the bookshelves, with their aura of 19th- and early 20th-century tastes, are still packed.

"People are dismayed," Brenda conceded. "I just want to be open long enough so old and new customers can take advantage of what's here."

Fillipi Book and Record Shop is at 1351 E. Olive Way.

Mike Dillon is the publisher of the Capitol Hill Times. He can be reached at

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