Meet the Judges: Michael Powell and Emily Powell of Powell’s Books

Taking the stage as our esteemed judges are bibliographic superstars Michael Powell and Emily Powell of Powell’s Books. This is an extra special honor for Schoolhouse Supplies because Powell’s was one of the first businesses to help start the Free Store for Teachers. Michael Powell believed in and supported this cause from Day 1 and now – 20 years later, we continue to feel grateful for the ongoing support of our local classrooms. We are honored to have Michael and Emily preside over the 20th Celebrity Spelling Bee stage!

Michael Powell

In 1979, Michael Powell moved to Portland to join his father Walter at a rapidly expanding used bookstore called Powell’s Books. No one, except perhaps Michael, foresaw the bright future for the bookstore that has become a semantic superpower in the book/publishing world.

He spent the next twenty years developing and expanding Powell’s in Portland, as well as helping to cultivate the local literary community. His first major contribution to the Portland arts scene came in the form of significant seed money for the new Portland Arts & Lecture, Inc. 

Because of Michael’s vision, Powell’s Books has intentionally become reader-centered. In addition to his literary vision, Michael helped shape the model that made Portland one of the most livable cities in the U.S.A. Michael’s energy has gone into civic organizations such as the World Affairs Council, Port of Portland, Association for Portland Progress, Metropolitan Arts Commission, Multnomah County Library, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Assoc., American Booksellers Assoc., Portland Public Schools Foundation, Portland State University Library Advisory board, and the SMART (Start Making a Reader Today) program, which he was instrumental in founding.

Powell’s has been at the center of every significant free speech issue in Portland over the last 20 years, lending a large hand to defeat anti-freedom legislation. Michael made sure Powell’s was a leading bookstore behind the petition to rescind section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.  (Section 215 forces libraries and bookstores to release the names and book preferences of patrons.) Michael has been recognized with awards on numerous occasions for his significant civic contributions.

In July 2010, Michael turned over leadership of Powell’s to his daughter Emily, who continues the legacy of family-owned Powell’s Books.  Michael continues to be involved with the company, getting back to the part of the business he loves — the books.

Emily Powell

Emily Powell is the President and third-generation leader of Powell’s Books, one of the largest and most innovative family-owned independent booksellers in the world. Emily grew up in the family business and worked in the bookstores from a very young age. In 2004, after completing her undergraduate studies, she began to prepare for increased responsibility and, ultimately, leadership of the family business. 

Over the last two decades, Emily Powell served as a Business Development Specialist, Director of Used Books, and Director of In July 2010, she accepted the role of President. During Emily’s leadership transition plan within the company, she also earned an MBA through the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA program in 2009.

Emily is successfully navigating the company through treacherous terrain as consumer behavior — how, where, and what people read — has changed dramatically and at an unprecedented rate. She has focused the company on customer service, selection, and innovation in order to stay relevant in a highly competitive marketplace.   In January 2011, Emily Powell was nominated by the Portland Business Journal for recognition in its 40 Under 40 awards, honoring the most prominent young business professionals in the city of Portland.

Join us at the Schoolhouse Supplies Celebrity Spelling Bee, March 4th at the remarkable Revolution Hall. Learn more about this night of phonic fun here.

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