The Beacon recommends: finding humanity at Arches Bookhouse

A St. John’s bookstore offers more than just used copies of great books

By Noah Carandanis | April 26, 2024 5:30pm

Arches Bookhouse sits at the corner of N. Wall Avenue and N. Houghton Street.

Media Credit: Noah Carandanis / The Beacon

Near the intersection of Lombard and Wall Avenue sits a wooden A-frame sign. Bold, red, cursive font reads “book shop” with an arrow pointing right down the street. Follow it long enough and eventually a gray building will emerge from the residential setting.

This is Arches Bookhouse, a store founded in 2022 and run by Adam McInturf. Arches emphasizes cultivating an exceptional browsing experience that focuses on scholastic humanities books. They also offer hard-to-find books and a myriad of non-scholastic literature. The store calls the St. John's neighborhood its home and is a gem within the North Portland community.

McInturf’s roots run deep in Portland. Having grown up in the city, he graduated from Multnomah Bible College where his dad worked as a groundskeeper. It was at Windows Booksellers, a store located on the college’s campus, that he would begin his bookselling career.

“I started working at the campus bookstore because I wanted discounts on books,” McInturf said. “I wanted to be around the books and I liked the people that worked there.”

Arches Bookhouse is the culmination of years of experience working in the bookselling world. Walking into the store evokes the feeling that one is touring the mind of a renaissance scholar. Books create miniature towers all around the shop, begging to be rifled through and examined. 

Bookhouse owner Adam McInturf behind the bookselling counter.
by Noah Carandanis / The Beacon

A wall of literature guards the checkout counter, offering potential last minute book buying in lieu of the usual checkout concessions. Within the limited space, there is even a reading chair nestled in between two bookshelves that encourages patrons to take their time browsing.

“There is kind of an endearing value of the browsing experience and seeing a curated collection,” McInturf said. “People are kind of resisting a world that’s just purely ethereal, you know, living on your phone.”

Our personal libraries can be physical representations of our ideals, values and interests — and Arches works to be a source which provides materials for those personal collections.

“No matter how cluttered we get, we do have limited space in our lives,” McInturf said. “And so we make decisions about what things we put in that space, and that's a reflection of what matters to us.”

Even with its deep and rich stock of books, Arches’ inventory is not the only thing drawing people into its doors.

Jonathan Stanfill, a theology instructor at the University of Portland, first met McInturf at a meeting for a group of early Christian scholars.

“Adam would come and bring a selection of texts [of] early Christians that he’d pulled out that we might be interested in,” Stanfill said. “[He goes] out of his way to cater to our needs.”

That familiarity and personal care is etched into the environment of the store. According to Stanfill, Arches offers a more manageable and inviting space than the larger bookstores in the area. The store is also conducive to striking up conversations with McInturf.

“I almost think of him as a research librarian,” Stanfill said. “It’s not just about the books on the shelf, but he can help you find things … That is just unparalleled for my experience with a bookstore.”

That collaborative environment is very deliberately cultivated by McInturf and his team at Arches. 

“I want to make people happy with the books that they find and those kinds of discoveries,” McInturf said. “I think that the possibility and hope of a bookstore is to be able to present something that they might never have found otherwise.” 

Arches’ residential surroundings are reflective of the neighborly attitude people can enter into at the bookhouse. Not only can a great book be found, but so too can a great conversation be had.

“I’ve worked as a bookseller for like 20 years, [and] the whole thing is relationship based,” McInturf said. “I want a diverse customer base, a diverse community of readers. That’s the world I want to be a part of.”

According to Ben Carey-DiGregorio, a philosophy and political science student at UP, Arches Bookhouse offers hard-to-find scholarly texts that can be expensive to purchase if bought new from other retailers.

An aisle of books in Arches Bookhouse.
by Noah Carandanis / The Beacon

“I think for me, [Arches] really represents that love of knowledge in the humanities,” Di-Gregorio said. “Walking in there, there’s something really magical about it. It’s books on the floor up to your waist [and] books on top of the bookshelves to the ceiling.”

For University of Portland students and faculty, the bookhouse’s close proximity to campus isn’t the only reason to visit.

According to McInturf, students and faculty with UP ID will receive a 10% discount at Arches.

With summer approaching and syllabi reading lists fading into the distance, follow the wooden A-frame sign off Lombard and indulge in the recreational scholasticism Arches Bookhouse offers. You may just find more than a great summer read.

Arches Bookhouse is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 8900 N. Wall Avenue.

Noah Carandanis is the Living Editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at