For third-generation Grays Harbor resident Ralph Larson, history has always been a passion. And, just like his passion for good food and conversation, the owner of Duffy’s Restaurant in Aberdeen, relishes sharing Grays Harbor’s fascinating history with others.

“My grandfather came here about 1910. My Dad was born in Aberdeen in 1915. I listened to stories of old Aberdeen all the time and was always fascinated,” says Larson, 79.

After the Wishkah Cookhouse Restaurant in Aberdeen closed decades ago, Larson bought a box of local interest books for $10 at an auction. He put them up for sale in the Hoquiam Duffy’s Restaurant (which was sold years ago) and was surprised by the response. So, when the opportunity came to buy a small book distributing business in about 1990, he jumped at the opportunity.

So now in addition to running his popular restaurant, he owns Duffy’s Wholesale Books, which supplies history and local interest books to some 25 small stores primarily from the Columbia River to Forks, as well as at Duffy’s Restaurant.

In fact, right after getting a whi­ff of freshly baked pies, visitors to Duffy’s first notice rows of rare local historic books displayed behind glass shelves in the restaurant’s lobby. They are available for purchase as are the more recently published local interest and history books in racks near the cashier.

Other outlets in Grays Harbor include each of the Dennis Company stores, Valu Drug and Pick Rite Thriftway in Montesano, Elma Pharmacy and East County Thriftway in Elma; Shop ‘n Kart and Twin Harbor Drug in Westport; Grayland Hardware and Forks Outfitters.

The books include those about lumber mills and logging camps, as well as the early years working at the port and fishing in the ocean. There are also stories of legends and historic figures as varied as Bigfoot, serial killer Billy Gohl, hunted outlaw John Tornow, and Kurt Cobain, lead singer and songwriter of the grunge band Nirvana. Other books include recipe books using local ingredients, information on mushroom hunting, smoking salmon, tying knots, razor clam digging, beachcombing and much more.

About once a month Larson leaves the restaurant and travels up and down the coast to talk to other business owners, swap stories and fill their book racks with the fascinating stories of Grays Harbor’s rich past.It all begins with an idea. Maybe you want to launch a business. Maybe you want to turn a hobby into something more. Or maybe you have a creative project to share with the world. Whatever it is, the way you tell your story online can make all the difference.

For those interested in a good read about local history, Larson suggests the following (in no particular order):

“They tried to cut it all” and “The River Pioneers: Early Days on Grays Harbor,” both by Edwin Van Syckle – Published in 1980 and 1982.

“Lady on the Beach,” by Norah Berg – Published in 1952, the autobiographical book talks about living at Copalis Beach in the 1930s and 1940s.

“Kurt Cobain Journals,” (2003)

“John Tornow Villain or Victim? The Untold Story of the Wildman of the Wynooche,” by Bill Lindstrom, published in 2014. As well as “Beast Man – A Historical Account of John Tornow accused murderer of six men” by Michael Fredson (2002)

“Port of Missing Men Billy Gohl, Labor and Brutal Times in the Pacific Northwest” by Aaron Goings (2020)

“On the Harbor: From Black Friday to Nirvana” by John C. Hughes and Ryan Teague Beckwith (2010)

“Logging in Grays Harbor” by Brian Woodwick and Gene Woodwick (2014)

“Clamming the Pacific Northwest Coast” by Ken Axt (2016)

“Boys of Company B” by Ted Reynvaan (2009) – A compilation of first-hand stories of young marines from Grays Harbor who were called to duty during the Korean War.