Downtown’s Beloved Dudleys to Stick Around

After facing a difficult December, customers help the bookshop cafe remain standing


Photo via Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe Instagram

At the heart of Bend, nestled beside Good Drop Wine Shoppe, lies a world of books. Downtown’s premier bookstore, Dudley’s, may look slightly unassuming from the outside—the building it’s housed in was built over a century ago—but the interior continues to amaze. The store is split into an upper and lower level: the lower houses fiction and bestsellers alongside a cafe, while the upper offers niche and used books. Rather than just selling run-of-the-mill bestsellers, though, Dudley’s prides itself on offering titles not seen anywhere else.

Known and loved by many, Dudley’s has been serving Bend for 50 years—and has passed through 13 owners since its opening in the 70s. Yet, come December, current owner Tom Beans noticed that the bookshop was facing far more difficulties in the coming year than ever before.

“This was the first time that the sales for the first two weeks of December were actually down quite a bit,” said Tom. “I’ve had the store for 8 years. This is the first year where things were a bit of a challenge.”

Like many other local businesses, Dudley’s relies on the interest and support of customers during the holidays—both local and visiting from out-of-town.

“It was a real concern because we really depend on holiday sales to carry us through,” Tom said. “If that doesn’t happen, suddenly the next year it gets really dicey in a lot of ways. A lot of the days were just like normal days, not December shopping days.”

Concerned about the fate of the bookshop in 2023, Tom decided to reach out to the Bend community for support via Instagram. On Dec. 18, social media accounts flooded with shares of Tom’s post, which explained the Dudley’s situation honestly. Kindly asking community members to look locally for gifts, the post circulated for several weeks afterward, reaching a massive amount of people.

“I was sitting at home and thought I should make a post and let people know what’s going on and say ‘Hey, if you haven’t done your shopping already, think about shopping local. People need it. We appreciate everybody regardless,’” Tom said. “It was crazy to see the number of people it reached on Facebook and Instagram—ten times the normal post.”

And the post reached beyond social media. Throughout the last week before Christmas, business at Dudley’s boomed—they even saw their busiest day ever recorded on Thu., Dec. 22. Thanks to the generous support of community members, the bookshop is back on track for the next year.

Unfortunately, the struggles are shared by businesses other than Dudley’s. In 2022, tourism numbers for Bend were down by at least 10% from past years. Places like downtown, which rely so heavily on tourism, suffered as a result. On top of that, inflation spiked prices for everything, from food and products, to building rents. More than ever, local businesses like Dudley’s need community and tourist support to stay afloat.

“Downtown’s changing. Year after year, a lot of the small-town, independent businesses are going away. And it sucks, because that’s the character of downtown Bend,” Tom said.

Summit junior and regular Dudley’s customer Sophie Hansen was surprised to hear that the bookshop wasn’t doing great, but plans on shopping there even more in the near future.

“I did not know that they had considered closing,” said Hansen. “This definitely encourages me to shop there more often.”

When shopping for books, looking local is always the best option to help preserve Bend’s idyllic charm. But buying books isn’t the only way to support the bookshop. For students looking to save a bit of money, Dudley’s offers the perfect solution: giving back, in the literal sense. The bookshop is always looking to buy used books in good condition, which will later be sold on shelves. 

Used books make up a large part of Dudley’s sales, and in the wake of the pandemic, community sourcing is the best way for the bookshop to replenish its supply.

“Where a lot of our used books used to come from was the Deschutes County library sales that happened quarterly. In Lane County they had a massive sale; they had 80,000 books that people had donated all year. All those went away during COVID,” Tom said. “Most of those have not come back.”

Community members with used books to spare can sell to Dudley’s for cash rather than store credit—unlike most other bookshops.

“Supporting small, local bookstores like Dudley’s is really important in order to preserve the community of Bend that we all know and love,” said Hansen. “Dudley’s is unique in its warm, cozy feel that can only come from a local bookshop.”