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Paul and Teri Graham announce plans to retire

Longtime business owners and community boosters say Graham's Book & Stationery will close in May after 57 years in Lake Oswego


REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Paul and teri Graham stand outside Grahams Book & Stationery on Second Street in Lake Oswego, where the shop has been located since the 1960s.Longtime business owners Paul and Teri Graham, whose downtown book and stationery store and passionate community involvement wove them deeply into the fabric of Lake Oswego for more than 40 years, announced this morning that they will retire at the end of May.

Graham’s Book & Stationery will close its doors for good on May 31, the Grahams said, and they are actively recruiting a new tenant for the building the Graham family has owned on Second Street since the 1960s.

“Transitioning to retirement for us doesn’t mean recruiting our children. They are successfully pursuing other careers,” Paul Graham said. “We’ve explored selling the business, but have decided that closing is our best course of action.

“After 40 years,” he added, “we’re ready for a change while we’re still healthy.”

Graham said he continues to believe in the vitality of Lake Oswego’s downtown business district. Store sales were up 7 percent in 2014, he said.

“We think opportunity and the business environment in Lake Oswego is good,” Graham said. “Additional housing and retail in the downtown area will continue to create the synergy needed to keep it lively, walkable and relevant to the community.”

The Graham family has been relevant to Lake Oswego since 1957, when Wally and Norma Graham — Paul’s parents — opened a small stationery store on State Street. At the time, Wally Graham was still working for J.K. Gill Co. in Portland, but the couple “pursued their dream of independence,” Paul Graham said. “They worked hard, built their business and immersed themselves in the community.”

In 1961, the Graham family moved from Southwest Portland to a two-story bungalow on Second Street. Two years later, they moved the house to a nearby vacant lot so that they could build a new home for Graham’s Book & Stationery. In 1967, they added a second building on the site.

In 1974, Wally and Norma Graham traveled to Germany, hoping to convince Paul and Teri to leave their overseas teaching jobs and “try out the family business.” Their quest was a success, and the elder Grahams were able to retire six years later.

“When we finally did the math, we realized to our surprise that we’ve been ‘trying out the business’ for 40 years,” Paul Graham said. Now, he said, the time is right for the next chapter in their lives.

“At last,” he said, “we’ve succumbed to the siren call of so many of our friends who keep bragging about their retirement.”

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Paul and Teri Graham say they're actively recruiting a new tenant for the building that has been home to Grahams Book & Stationery since the 1960s.Carol Winston, who has worked closely with the Grahams as chairwoman of the Lake Oswego Business Alliance and a member of the Arts Council board, said she wishes the couple well.

“I am so very happy for the Grahams in their decision to take early retirement to enjoy all the travel, hiking, mountain climbing and whatever else they choose to do, in good health,” said Winston, whose own shop, Accessories from the Heart, is located just across A Avenue from Graham’s. “They're living the American Dream and I'm proud of them.  Selfishly speaking, however, I will miss them like crazy!”

Winston called the Grahams “true icons of our business community."

"I have always admired Paul and Teri's ability to find the best in every situation, always serving as the voice of positive reason,” she said. “And on a personal level, I have always admired Paul's gift of quick wit and his ability to find humor in all things.  I feel very fortunate to call Paul and Teri my friends.  I wish them all the best in this new chapter of their lives.”

Keith Dickerson, the executive director of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, announced the Grahams' decision to chamber members Monday. "While I am happy for Paul and Teri's well-deserved 'next chapter,'" he said, "I find it hard to stop asking, 'Can it really be?' Is there any part of our community that hasn't benefited from their participation and generosity?"

Since Graham’s first opened, the shop has offered a wide variety of office and art supplies, stationery, cards and gifts, books, school supplies and seasonal surprises. But the store has been more than just a collection of merchandise.

“It’s become a gathering place for a diversity of staff, friends, neighbors, schools, community partners and out-of-towners,” Graham said, “for everyone from those who have just discovered us to third-generation school supply shoppers and long-time loyalists.”

One of those long-time loyalists is Bill Baars, director of the Lake Oswego Public Library.

“It’s hard to imagine a Lake Oswego without Graham’s Book & Stationery. Graham’s has been a major fixture for me since childhood,” Baars said, “and when I try to imagine the number of people who have entered that special place, my mind reels.”

That “special place” may be going away, but Graham said he and Teri will continue to be deeply involved in the community. They have served on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce, Arts Council, Lakewood Center and Lake Oswego Rotary; collaborated on events that have attracted people to the city’s downtown core; actively supported city and school bond measures; and partnered in civic projects like Lake Oswego Reads and the Gallery Without Walls.

“We’re not going away,’ Graham said, which was good news for Baars and other community leaders.

“One of my great pleasures has been to foster such an excellent relationship with Paul and Teri,” Baars said. “Graham’s was the title sponsor for this year’s Lake Oswego Reads program, and Paul has been on the steering committee from the start. In fact, he brought our very first book — “Shadow of the Wind” — to the group. That we are now preparing for our 10th year of this program speaks to Paul and Teri’s support and enthusiastic participation.

“The store may be closing,” Baars said, “but I know that we will continue to rely on Paul and Teri’s support and wise counsel. It’s the end of an era. They should feel proud of the work they have done.”

Nancy Nye, director of the Arts Council of Lake Oswego, echoed those sentiments.

“Paul Graham was one of the first people I met when I took my position at the Arts Council, though I had been a loyal, long-time customer of Graham’s,” she said. “For several years, I had been using a writing tablet with the words “Graham’s Stationery — Your Partner in the Community” printed on the top of the spine. Those were prophetic words indeed. Paul and Teri Graham have been more than partners; they have provided indispensable leadership and vision, making remarkable contributions to the quality of life and economic vitality of Lake Oswego.”

Nye said the Grahams’ longtime support of the Gallery Without Walls earned them the Arts Council’s first “Fortuna Award,” which recognizes outstanding partnership in support of public art. In addition, Paul Graham designed and facilitated an important membership campaign for the Arts Council and was an active participant on its board of directors, she said.

“On behalf of the Arts Council, I want to express my deepest gratitude for their generosity, dedication and stewardship,” Nye said, “and my congratulations on a very well-deserved retirement.”

Signs announcing the closing of Graham’s Book & Stationery went up on the store’s windows Monday. The shop is offering 25 percent off the lowest marked price on all merchandise — “with a few exceptions,” Paul Graham said.

The Grahams will host a “Retirement Launch Party” at the store from 4:30-7 p.m. on Thursday, April 23, and are inviting the community to share stories about the shop via email (grahamsstat@aol.com) for a retirement album they’ll create.

“Thanks to all of you who have been part of our ‘Graham’s Adventure,’” Paul Graham said, “and thank you for the past 57 years. Our new chapter begins at the end of May!”

Contact Gary M. Stein at 503-636-1281 ext. 102 or gstein@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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