Emily Adair
The La Grande Observer

JaxDog Cafe has added two little words to its business name, but the phrase, “and Books,” is promising a much larger undertaking.

Owners Jon and Laura Hancock recently completed a majority of the renovations in the space at 1118 Adams Ave., La Grande, to “spruce it up,” and are now working to build their book inventory.

“We want to offer a mixture of used and new books, but eventually we do want to tip that balance to more new books,” Laura said. “(La Grande) has a few other great bookstores, and I think the new books is a niche we can offer.”

JaxDog Cafe and Books hopes to combine two types of services that “go hand-in-hand,” Laura said.

“People like to eat good food and read good books, so I think they are complementary businesses,” Laura said.

She said she thinks the new look is fitting with the cafe’s atmosphere, offering open space and lounge seating rather than a “library style” with emphasis on shelves.

The bookstore is located on the first floor, and the stairs leading up to the cafe are toward the back of the store.

Jon has worked the cafe, named for the first dog the couple adopted together, since it opened in March 2014. Laura said she was excited to solidify their partnership by taking over the bookstore component of the business after working at
Eastern Oregon University.

“I have a background in journalism and editing, so it seemed like a natural progression for me to go toward books,” she said. “I was ready to sort of strike out on my own, while at the same time partnering more holistically with Jon.”

The couple said they believe Laura’s role will help ensure customers have a positive experience from the moment they walk in the door.

JaxDog Cafe and Books will offer special orders, which Jon said people prefer to ordering books online themselves.

“The novelty of online shopping has taken a toll on the psyche,” he said. “Just like people want to hold the physical book rather than read online, they like the personal touch of coming into a shop and speaking to a local person.”

The room toward the back of the store will likely be converted into a reading lounge, where Laura said she hopes local book clubs will want to hold regular meetings.

In addition to the comfortable chairs and new floors, Jon said there will be lint rollers available for customers to remove the cat hairs left by Amber, the store’s feline greeter.

He said they are also planning to bring in authors for regular readings.

The bookstore’s first window display was designed to give potential customers an idea of what JaxDog aims to offer: a little of everything.

“This (display) includes several different genres, from kids’ books to regional authors,” Laura said. “Future displays will probably be themed.”

The business will have two separate phone numbers for the bookstore and cafe components.

“I take (cafe) orders over the phone, so we don’t want to let anything get lost when people are trying to call the bookstore,” Jon said.

Jon said the couple does not plan to expand the kitchen or dining areas, except that the downstairs seating area will be multi-purpose and allow customers to work, read and eat.