More than coffee | Interview with Erin Timmins

With the right attention to detail, many people can make a decent cup of coffee.

Not everyone can create a welcoming space for connection and community to go along with that dose of caffeine.

As a small business owner, Erin Timmins has been pulling shots and frothing milk for more than 30 years. Now she owns Bookstore Coffee Company on Main Street, in the town she has dreamed of living in since childhood.

Timmins and her family began vacationing on Orcas in the early 1970s, and returned every summer, staying at Beach Haven Resort. Since she was 11, Timmins knew she’d call the island home one day. It would just take her 44 years to make it her address.

“I would get up and loved to go out in the rowboat, super early in the morning. It was a special moment with the starry skies on one side, the sun rising on the other. It was the most sublime thing I had ever seen,” she said. “It was an ordinary moment that profoundly changed my trajectory.”

Timmins grew up in Portland, Oregon and later relocated to California. For 11 years, she owned and operated multiple coffee carts in the Bay Area. After moving back to Portland in 2004, she opened The Dragonfly Coffee House and Bakery.

“Coffee was my business. It was nice to evolve to brick and mortar and a cozy coffee spot,” she said.

The first few years were a considerable learning curve for Timmins who was suddenly tasked with leading a staff of 10 baristas and bakers.

“I’m really proud of myself for taking the time to learn what it meant to run a team and be a leader,” she recalled. “And I’m still learning! Most of my staff stayed on for close to a decade, which is unheard of in this business. ‘Lead from behind’ was my motto. If you create that culture in your business, the rest of it will follow. I feel deeply grateful and privileged for the opportunity to serve people.”

In 2017, Timmins bought a small plot of land with a house on the corner of Prune Alley and School Road in Eastsound. She planned to retire on Orcas and wanted to have the option of running a coffee shop from her home. Her timeline felt very far into the future — until the pandemic happened.

“I realized I was ready to make a change and leave Portland,” she said.

Timmins sold the Dragonfly Coffee House after 18 years of ownership in 2022. By the beginning of 2023, she had moved to Orcas with her tiny home and began managing the coffee shop at Darvill’s Bookstore, which had been closed for six months. She chose not to open a new business because several cafes had popped up in the interim.

“At that time, the market was saturated and I didn’t want to take away from the people who were doing a great job,” she said.

Fairly soon into her time at Darvill’s, Timmins knew she wanted to purchase the cafe. By November 2023, it was officially hers, and she renamed it the Bookstore Coffee Company. It’s still known around town as “killer brew with the best view.” Timmins offers weekly drink specials and a variety of goods from talented bakers on Orcas and Lopez.

In addition to taking over and revamping a long-standing business, Timmins embarked on a major building project. She demolished her house in town and drew up plans for a brand new space. Pedestrians and drivers in Eastsound have delighted in watching its progress, board by board. She will move in this spring.

While living in Portland in her small house, Timmins rented a space to work on her oil paintings, which adorned the walls of the Dragonfly and the Bookstore Coffee Company — before they all sold. She is thrilled to soon have a room in her new house that is dedicated entirely to creating art. She has been painting since the 7th grade and is self-taught. To view her work, visit

After many decades of serving coffee with a smile, Timmins’ favorite aspect is facilitating human interaction.

“I love being witness to how people gather and what comes from that. I’ve watched people on first dates who later marry, people studying who come back with master’s degrees. You set the stage and let all this magic happen,” she said. “Now it’s my mission to serve this extraordinary local community kindly and consistently all year long. I am committed to earning their patronage time and again each and every day.”

One of Erin’s oil paintings.

One of Erin’s oil paintings.

A landscape by Erin.

A landscape by Erin.