Langley merchant celebrates 50 years of bookish fun

It all started with a dream of selling books and a bright turquoise building.

It all started with a dream of selling books and a bright turquoise building.

Half a century later, the bookstore that has fostered generations of South Whidbey readers is still standing.

Josh Hauser, owner of Moonraker Books in downtown Langley, recently celebrated 50 years of owning the cozy little shop.

Langley Mayor Scott Chaplin declared June 2022 to be Josh Hauser Appreciation Month in honor of the businesswoman of petite stature and big heart.

Hauser and her late husband, Glenn, opened the bookstore in 1972 and named it after the top square sail on a boat. She’s never seen the James Bond movie of the same name, or any Bond movie for that matter.

“We figured if we couldn’t make it as a bookstore, we could sell other things,” she said.

An avid bookworm, Hauser learned to read the summer she was 3 years old.

“My husband and I were from disparate backgrounds, but we both loved to read,” she said.

Before moving to South Whidbey, the couple traversed the island in a camper, stopping for an ice cream cone in Langley.

“We thought we’d like to move up here but we couldn’t remember where this little town was that we liked, so we drove around a few times before we discovered it was Langley,” Hauser chuckled.

They bought a fixer-upper beach cottage and the building on First Street, which was formerly a thrift store. Hauser’s husband converted a loft upstairs to a second floor, which today is furnished with just as many books as the first floor.

For a brief period of time after opening, they stuck some tuxedos on mannequins and displayed them in the window at the top of the building with the slogan “Langley Tuxedo Rental: For when Langley comes alive after five.” It was followed by a second sign: “Closed for the season.”

“Do you have the feeling that we didn’t take this all seriously?” Hauser asked with a laugh.

All jokes aside, she was instrumental in the establishment of Langley’s first merchant association, which ended up being the forerunner of the current Langley Chamber of Commerce.

In the 1980s, a number of successful women owned stores on First Street. Hauser dubbed them the “Langley Associated Merchant Princesses,” or LAMP for short.

Less officially, there was also the Ladies’ Friday Night Cross Country Drinking Society, which developed around a Boeing employee’s desire to meet new people. But that’s a story for another time.

“Once in a while we went to the bar on Second Street, and once we went as far as Bush Point,” Hauser quipped.

In the past, the Langley merchants made an effort to meet in each other’s shops, swapping stories and getting to know each other and the merchandise.

Sandra Wainwright, who previously owned jewelry and candy store Wayward Son, said the group of ladies became close friends.

“It was wonderful having that kind of camaraderie, and she was always in there,” Wainwright said of Hauser. “She was always one of the main pins.”

Hauser currently has one of the longest-running businesses in Langley.

“Josh has not hung up her spurs. She’s still in there, doing her thing behind the counter, sometimes seven days a week,” Wainwright said. “It’s kind of her identity and it’s her passion and her hobby and it’s her yard work. It’s all of it rolled into one.”

Over the years Hauser has witnessed several changes in the Village by the Sea, from a quiet business community with some groups of hippies to the bustling attraction that it is now.

“A tourist was a rare item,” she said of the olden days. “The tourists that wandered through were usually tourists trying to make their way to Coupeville.”

Hauser has participated in nearly every Langley Mystery Weekend, a mystery-solving tradition that began in 1985. She has unknowingly committed the “murder” twice.

When asked if she expected to own her bookstore for 50 years, Hauser responded, “I didn’t even think I would last for 50 years, let alone the store.”

“She’s been the anchor, not only of a wonderful store for 50 years, but of the town of Langley and the community of Langley and a place that helps us reach into the whole world,” said Sharon Parks, a longtime friend. “It’s pretty special.”

Josh Hauser, pictured here with a portrait of her younger self taken by famous Hollywood photographer William Mortensen. (Photo by David Welton)

Josh Hauser, pictured here with a portrait of her younger self taken by famous Hollywood photographer William Mortensen. (Photo by David Welton)