A blog about food
Books and Coffee Come Together
An “iconoclast” is by definition “a person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc." Synonyms would be nonconformist, rebel, dissenter or radical.
But when Sun Valley ski bum Gary Hunt used the term to establish the first Iconoclast bookstore near Seattle, he determined it was “Anyone or anything that challenges the status quo or the entrenched ideology … It is a name most often applied to artists and writers, poets, architects and other such entrepreneurs.”
And Gary was definitely an entrepreneur. Travelling around Seattle yard sales in the early 1990s, he filled up his trunk with whatever rare, used and antique books he could find for his small bookstore. “He was the smartest man I’d ever met,” said his wife and current Iconoclast owner, Sarah Hedrick. “So smart he scared me.”
The two met over 22 years ago, when he wandered into the Ketchum bookstore where she worked. Their lives would go in different directions for many years—his to Seattle, hers to another marriage—until the Ketchum Iconoclast would bring them back together.
“It was always my dream job to work in a bookstore,” said Sarah. “When I was younger, I spent every weekend reading in Harvard Square in Cambridge, going from bookstore to bookstore.” It was there that she discovered small specialty shops, with hand-curated collections, tattered first editions and out-of-print paperbacks—the best and oldest kind of books with cracked spines and different smells, unlike anything in the sparkling department stores she was used to.
In 1994, when Gary hauled his collection of used books down from Washington to open Iconoclast in Ketchum, the two book-lovers fused a longstanding passion (for reading, that is). After moving to a few locations on 1st Avenue, then to the historic brick Griffith building on Main Street (now Cornerstone Bar and Grill), Gary and Sarah eventually settled in the Christiania building on Sun Valley Road. With enough space to let their collection breathe and grow, they were finally able to open up the coffee shop they had always dreamed of.
Today, the bookstore/coffee shop combo has full service breakfast and lunch, as well as special daily soups and quiches prepared by Rickshaw chef, Laura Apshaga. They also have a selection of teas from around the world, like Japanese Matcha and homemade Chai, as well as Thai “Bubble Tea” with tapioca pearls (try it). Sarah said, “If there’s something we don’t make in-house, we do our best to find it locally.” They were the first business to offer Cloverleaf organic milk products from Buhl, Idaho, and they even get many of their ingredients from homegrown backyard gardens. Their bread products come from the local Bigwood Bakery and even their coffee, Grace Organics, is roasted by a family in Hailey.
You can come in and sip something steaming, surrounded by the best in new and used books, curl up in the oversized kids' section, nibble an "Iconobar" by one of the big sunny windows and know all the while, with that warm fuzzy feeling inside, that you're supporting local business.
“I try as hard as I can to support all the other local businesses in town,” said Sarah, who doesn’t shop online or make trips to the city for Christmas presents. “They are the ones who are going to support my community in return … Of course, I can buy things at Costco cheaper than at Atkinson’s Market. But at the end of the day, I drop my kids of at Atkinson’s Park, not Costco Park.”
When her husband Gary died in a car accident in 2008, Sarah was left with four kids and the bookstore. Despite the hardships, Iconoclast will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year, which is another reason why, said Sarah, “I hope people choose to support independent stores, not just here, but everywhere.” She has managed to open up a store in Hailey along with two other businesses, Tater Tots and Ketchum Bed & Bath, combining to make the Modern Mercantile—a collection of "Unexpected Necessities" from books to kids clothing, gifts, unique jewelry and local artwork.
A hard-working entrepreneur, an independent mother and still a hardcore book-lover, Sarah carries the spirit of a true Sun Valley “iconoclast."
For more on local coffee shops, check out our Yum! blog about Java on 4th.