Indie Bookstore Spotlight: Woozles Bookstore

The independent bookstore is a cultural and community hub – authors are introduced, works read aloud to an audience and ideas are shared.

Each month, we will be featuring an independent bookstore from across Canada, proving what a special role these shops play in fostering authors, community and a love of reading. For November, we are featuring Woozles bookstore in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

Tell us a little bit about the history of Woozle.

In the spring of 1978, three people agreed they couldn’t find the children’s books they wanted in Halifax – Liz & Brian Crocker and Ann Connor Brimer – and so the idea of a children’s bookstore was conceived.  And then they noticed that an old house on Birmingham Street was for sale.  It seemed the fates were aligned, the building was bought (along with a manual on bookselling and how to do accounting for small businesses), renovations were made books were ordered, a fabulous manager was hired, and Woozles opened its doors on Saturday, October 14, 1978.  Opening day was overcast but people came by the hundreds (600 the first day) and Woozles has never looked back!

There have been so many milestones along the way…ranging from Woozles graduating from writing sales on pieces of paper to getting a cash register in 1986 and then a computer in the late 90’s…to the untimely death of Ann Connor Brimer in 1988…the two expansions of the building so that Woozles has now grown from its initial 600 sq. ft. to approximately 1500 sq. ft….the numerous authors and children’s performers who have crossed our threshold to delight young people (and adults too!)…to the retirement, after 30 years, of our first Manager, Trudy Carey, in 2009…to our newsletter which was first issued in October, 1978 and still is published 3 times a year, on-line and on paper!  (I could go on and on here but hopefully that’s a bit of a flavour)

What made you want to open a bookstore?

This is somewhat answered above…it really was because three of us couldn’t find the books we wanted for children in Halifax – there were other bookstores but no one had a very extensive children’s section…and children’s books were our passion.  We also strongly believed in the idea of a community resource for children and the line underneath “Woozles” is “A Place For and About Children”….our community bulletin board, our workshops, our support of various children’s organizations, our Battle of the Books program and our writing competition (which both support the love of writing and reading) give testimony to the fact that we believe we are more than a store…

What does the book-buying public understand least about independent bookstores?

Most people are familiar with a traditional retail model that marks everything up a certain amount to make profit and are not necessarily aware that things work differently with books.  The fact that the publisher sets the price of each book and then gives bookstores a discount on that price makes things different in the sense that it limits the percentage which a bookstore is able to mark down a book without then actually losing money on the sale.  This makes it look like we are deliberately refusing to discount our books the way that grocery stores or big box stores do but doesn’t allow customers to see the full story.

What is the hardest part about being a bookstore owner in 2012?

In one way, it’s not hard because we continue to love what we do and see the positive responses, every day, from children and parents when good books are discovered and shared.  The media would like us all to believe that independent booksellers are on their way to being things of the past and, in this climate, we believe it is important to pay attention to actual trends rather than broad-stroke gloomy predictions.  We believe the trends are saying that more people are reading than ever before – in paper format and on-line – even though there is tremendous competition for children’s time and attention.  It would be great if authors, booksellers and publishers could come together and think creatively to ensure that good books continue to be written and published and sold by people who know them and love them.

What types of books does your store stock and/or specialize in?

As a specialty bookseller, we focus on books ‘for and about children’.  We pride ourselves in having fabulous books for readers aged 0-18.

What are some of your favorite titles? Titles coming out this year?

Phewf.  How long have you got?  We are enormous fans of Oliver Jeffers, of Sandra Boynton, of Kenneth Oppel, of Sarah Dessen…the list goes on and on and on.

What are you reading right now?

Suzy is reading The Casual Vacancy for her adult bookclub (but she did just finish Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot!), and Lisa is reading Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes and the Friday Society by Adrienne Kress.

What is your most current best seller? Classic?

Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox, Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown are consistently at the top of our bestseller lists.

Right now, due to the recent release of Shauntay Grant’s new book, Apple and Butterflies, that is the #1 seller.

What have been some of your favorite (or most memorable) author events?

Barbara Cooney, Tamora Pierce, Robert Munsch.

Any strange, wild or crazy-but-true stories?

There was a period of time when we found handwritten notes on pieces of paper left in several books over several months.  We dubbed the author of these notes the ‘caper of Woozles’.  Incidentally, all of the notes were loosely about the end of the world.

We get a bit of a kick out of kids who come into the store and promptly take their coat and shoes off…because Woozles is situated in what was once a house (and still feels like a cozy house)

We were approached recently by a local ghosthunter who wanted to stay overnight and do an infrared recording of the potential bookstore ghost…but for security reasons one of the staff or owners would have had to sleep overnight in the store with the team, so it didn’t end up happening.

We once got a call from a gentleman who asked to see our books about taxidermy for an 8 year old.  Not, do you have any, but where are the multitude of?  We’ve also been asked about the location of our ‘Octopus section’.

What book are you, or will you, hand-sell with a vengeance?

What’s neat about this store, and about independent bookstores in general, is that our staff are knowledgeable, generous and helpful.  And tastes vary all over the map.  So depending on the day, you could encounter Mollie, who will no doubt sell you In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak or Suzy who will insist you take home Visitor for Bear.  But if you meet Lisa, you’ll likely walk out with an armload of YA fiction, whereas Nadine might show you her favourite illustrated classic.  We are passionate about what we do, and it is not formulaic in any way.

Is there anything else you would like to tell our blog readers?

We are deeply honoured to have the opportunity to do what we do every single day.  Thanks for making the independent bookstore experience so special.

Signed,
Lisa, Suzy and Liz

Indie Bookstore Spotlight: Bryan Prince Bookseller

The independent bookstore is a cultural and community hub – authors are introduced, works read aloud to an audience and ideas are shared.

Each month, we will be featuring an independent bookstore from across Canada, proving what a special role these shops play in fostering authors, community and a love of reading. For October, we are featuring Bryan Prince Bookseller in Hamilton, Ontario. We got to speak with the lovely co-owners Kerry and Tracey. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

  1. Tell us a little bit about the history of Bryan Prince Booksellers
    Bryan Prince Bookseller was established in 1989 by Bryan Prince who had been partner, for many years, in the Dundas bookstore Chapman & Prince. The store has always maintained a strong community focus, participating in countless events, fundraisers and programs in the greater Hamilton area.

    Tracey Higgins joined the staff as a bookseller in 1990 and Kerry Cranston began her bookselling career in 1994. In 2011 Bryan Prince retired from bookselling and sold the store to Kerry & Tracey, who do their utmost to continue the traditions of the store while adapting to current trends and technology.
  2. What made you want to open a bookstore?
    We love books in all their manifestations. We believe that literacy, creativity and a critical mind are so important in developing a thoughtful, engaged citizenry. Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, we are exposing our minds to new ideas and new ways of communication those ideas – we can’t think of many more satisfying careers than fostering and encouraging that process.
  3. What do you like best about your career in books?
    The most satisfying part of being a bookseller is connecting a reader with their new favourite author, or the perfect book to suit their needs.
  4. What does the book-buying public understand least about independent bookstores?
    Most of our customers understand how difficult it can be for independent booksellers to compete with huge corporations and online retailers who are able to greatly discount books. It is very comforting to know that so many of our customers are very loyal to independents and understand the importance of our existence to ensure diversity and local community in the marketplace.
  5. What is the hardest part about being a bookstore owner in 2012?
    The hardest part of being a bookseller right now is the uncertainty of so many things that are completely outside our control: technology trends, the state of the economy and how that effects the average person; fuel & transportation costs, etc.
  6. What types of books does your store stock and/or specialize in?
    Bryan Prince Bookseller is a general bookstore, stocking fiction, nonfiction and children’s books. We have a very good special order service and have recently started to stock French titles.
  7. What are some of your favorite titles? Titles coming out this year?
    Tracey: I have the lost generation classic and am enamoured of the beautiful editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. In terms of new books coming our this year, I adored the debut mystery by Deryn Collier, Confined Space, and throughly enjoyed Jian Ghomeshi’s memoir, 1982. I am also very excited to read (when the time presents itself, Salman Rushdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton.)
  8. What are you reading right now?
    Tracey: Right now I’m reading the Booker longlisted novel, Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng and the new Massey lecture by Neil Turok, The Universe Within.
  9. What is your most current best seller? Classic?
    Our current bestseller is Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie. In terms of a classic bestseller, it would be a toss-up between Ernest Hemingway and Jane Austen.
  10. What have been some of your favorite (or most memorable) author events?
    One of our most memorable author events was the evening with Robertson Davies and Shyam Selvadurai. It was Shyam’s first reading and Robertson Davies was so kind and gracious with both Shyam Selvadurai and the booksellers from the store. That evening resonated with Tracey every time she rereads one of Robertson Davies’ novels. Aside from that one, the Harry Potter midnight parties were great. They entailed a ridiculous amount of planning and preparation, but worth is all when we saw the hordes of enthusiastic children.
  11. Any strange, wild or crazy-but-true stories?
    It’s an unusual day when we don’t have anyone ask a strange question that has nothing to do with bookselling. One of the more difficult conversations I’ve had, though, was trying to convince a customer that the complete Oxford English Dictionary was not available on audio cassette.
  12. What book are you, or will you, hand-sell with a vengeance?
    This fall there is a wealth of great books to recommend. As the weather cools off, though, mystery lovers are on the hunt for something new & exciting. This fall I will be handselling Confined Space, by Deryn Collier & Crow’s Landing, by Brad Smith.
  13. Is there anything else you would like to tell our blog readers?
    There are lots of things we want people to know about booksellers, but there is one opinion that we encounter that we find disturbing. There seems to be an impression that booksellers are ignoring developments in technology, that we are passionate about books because we aren’t facing up to the future, or somehow defying the inevitable. We are all for reading. We wish everyone would read voraciously in whatever medium best suits their needs. But we also believe that physical books and digital books will find their balance and that we’ll get past this almost desperate frenzy to eliminate every alternative to the digital world.

Indie Bookstore Spotlight: Bookmark

The independent bookstore is a cultural and community hub – authors are introduced, works read aloud to an audience and ideas are shared.

Each month, we will be featuring an independent bookstore from across Canada, proving what a special role these shops play in fostering authors, community and a love of reading. For September, we are featuring Bookmark – we spoke with Lori from the Charlottetown flagship and Mike from the Halifax location.  You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook (Charlottetown, Halifax)!

1. Tell us a little bit about the history of Bookmark:
Lori: Bookmark began with a pregnant new wife and a guy’s need to stop roaming the world and find a way to support a new family. Christmas of ’72 was our opening in Olde Charlottetown. It was a great time for the publishing industry; wonderful author tours with the likes of Smallwood, Berton, Lesveque, Chretien, and Howe. Canadiana was at its best.

In 1989 we opened another store on Spring Garden Road in Halifax. New and better looking faces now manage Bookmark as two separate stores but joined at the hip.

Mike: I joined Bookmark in late 1998 after having worked with just about every bookstore in the Halifax area since ’81. I knew Bookmark as a tiny but mighty store on Spring Garden Road that sold a lot of quality titles along with a great selection of maps and journals and other bookish fun items. I knew it had a wonderful reputation for experimenting with a wider range than normal for a tiny general interest bookstore, expanding its poetry, philosophy, architecture and international literature, for example. The areas that most mainstreamed bookstores ignored, Bookmark had capitalized on them. It was small and vibrant, personal and friendly and for those reasons, and many more, I found a true home here. It is a bookstore that can truly speak to its community and has engendered an amazing level of customer loyalty. It still amazes me how this small space attracts so many friends, people who do not necessarily buy a book everytime they visit but feel the need to sometimes just see how we are doing and say “Hi”. In 2004, a fire destroyed an adjacent building and as we dealt with the shock of our close escape and the potential loss of our livelihood, we struggled to help the insurance team clean our stock of smoke damage. Every morning, our neighbours and customers were always at the door, offering to do anything to help us reopen, haul garbage, wipe windows, anything that would make us safe again. It’s a cliche but this is more than a business, it’s a place for friends to hang out and care for each other.

Mike and fellow bookseller Neil

2. What do you like best about your career in books?

Lori: I love the people and the fact that I get to talk about what I love with the people trying to sell me the books and the people I’m trying to sell the books to! My customers become my friends and I love pairing them with new books.

Mike: There are two overriding factors for me, the intellectual and physical beauty of every type of book and meeting people. For me, it’s been over 30 years grabbing that receiving knife and opening boxes of books and I have not, and never will, tire of it. As well, I have been too fortunate in finding lifelong friends who share my love of reading and then there are all the authors I have had the pleasure of meeting. Looking back on the history of events and conferences, I have met so many influential and interesting people.

3. What does the book-buying public understand least about independent bookstores?

Lori: I don’t think people realize that by shopping on-line and in non-traditional bookstores (Wal-mart, Shopper’s, Costco etc..) that they are hurting us and the book business as a whole. There is a reason why independent bookstores are going out of business all across Canada and the US but they don’t see the role this type of buying has. Independents have a much easier time of curating lists for a community.

Mike: My immediate thought was a mundane one which involves pricing and the margin in book selling. It is hard to explain the reason for the often huge discrepancy between online and chain discounted prices and our publisher driven cover prices. Most of the people who shop with us are well versed in the pricing structure within the book industry and the tight margins within which independents must work. However, there are a few people we see that expect us to be able to match online or box-store prices.

4. What is the hardest part about being a bookstore owner in 2012?

It remains the same every year. It is the challenge of getting all of our tasks completed with a small staff. I bet you expected me to reference the e-book or online issues but we have a niche for gorgeous and meaningful printed books. That’s our strength and that’s what our community wants us to sell. So, our main struggle remains the same as in many years past…….to get all of our work done!

5. What types of books does your store stock and/or specialize in?

As mentioned, we have everything that the buying public would expect us to have, the books that are on the talk show circuit, reviewed in the major publications, discussed on CBC Radio, books that have been adapted into current films, etc. However, our bread and butter, the books that make us special and remembered, are those that maybe only one person would want (but want in a BIG way!) or the single copy of something that a person would want to special order when in fact, we have a copy. The most recent example of a book that we love and the person who bought one didn’t expect to find on our shelves, “Squeeze This! A Cultural History Of The Accordion”.

6. What are some of your favorite titles? Titles coming out this year?

Lori: I’m excited about the new Lisa Genova, Donna Morrissey, Jussi Adler-Olsen

Mike: Personally, it would be Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy, Donna Morrissey’s The Deception Of Livvy Higgs. Everybody is also very excited about Louise Penny’s new title, The Beautiful Mystery.

7. What are you reading right now?

Lori: Absent 1 by Adler-Olsen. Just finished Love Anthony and  Dublin Dead.

Mike: The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker. It is quietly marvelous like his IMPAC Dublin award winner, The Twin.

8. What is your most current best seller?

Lori: 50 Shades of Grey ( don’t judge me!! I think I’m the last person who hasn’t read it!)

Mike: We’ll choose as our current bestseller Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

Classic?

Lori: Classic for me is always  Anne of Green Gables

Mike: At the moment it would be F. Scott Fitzgerlad’s The Great Gatsby

9. What have been some of your favorite (or most memorable) author events?

Lori: We have had some great events in the last couple of years with Laurence Hill, Linden MacIntyre, and Chef Michael Smith

Mike: Of the many that we’ve enjoyed, there are two very memorable author events. One of the most successful readings we hosted was part of David Suzuki’s Legacy Tour. It represented the perfect marriage of an amazing individual with an incredibly important topic, the health of the earth. The second was a collaborative effort with two other area independents on the occasion of M&S’s anniversary. It featured Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson and was moving, funny and just plain brilliant.

10. Any strange, wild or crazy-but-true stories?

Mike: We’ve had the usual weird and wonderful questions from the lost souls. However, the best time we had under what might be considered stressful circumstances occurred several years ago during the height of Christmas Eve sales. It was a typical Maritime winter with slush and rain and fog and a power outage that day. We were so busy that Saturday morning, the adrenaline was pumping, good will was flowing and we were having a wonderful time when we were thrust into utter darkness. All the shops along our street reluctantly began to close as hope was lost that we were ever going to regain power. Yet, we propped open our doors, got out all our flashlights, took some desperate coffee runs and managed to help our customers for the whole three hour outage. When all the other businesses had given up, we persevered, sometimes finding books only by touch, earning a good penny and some great press when the local TV station came in to do a human interest spot. It was one of those times when we all pulled together, thankful that we’d kept the old credit card imprinter, and had a wonderful December the 24th with our community.

11. What book are you, or will you, hand-sell with a vengeance?

Lori: My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You, The Priest, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Mike: This is a no-brainer for me. That book is what may end up being my favourite book of the year, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. A huge bestseller in Europe already, the book is simply wonderful in it’s depiction of a long life well lived, one punctuated with many bottles of vodka and cameos by many of last century’s luminaries. I just fell in love with it.

12. Is there anything else you would like to tell our blog readers?

Only that, yes, small independent bookstores are incredibly viable and important in 2012 in Canada and around the world. The media finds it very sexy to state that the printed book is dead but it is definitely not. All these new technologies that are being used to spread the written word can co-exist with very well with the one Gutenberg perfected so long ago. For me, Gutenberg’s way is the perfect way to read and I know for sure that I am not alone.

Remember..independently owned, independently minded!

 

Indie Bookstore Spotlight: Words Worth Books

The independent bookstore is a cultural and community hub – authors are introduced, works read aloud to an audience and ideas are shared.

Each month, we will be featuring an independent bookstore from across Canada, proving what a special role these shops play in fostering authors, community and a love of reading. For August, we are featuring Words Worth Books in Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

1. Tell us a little bit about the history of Words Worth Books:
Mandy Brouse and I bought Words Worth Books from the previous owners, Chuck Erion and Tricia Siemens who founded the shop in 1984.
We recently moved the store to another uptown Waterloo location and hope to be here for a long time ourselves.

2. What made you want to open a bookstore?
As far as taking the shop on, we don’t know how to do anything else, and we can’t see beyond that.  Or at least we don’t care to look too hard.

3. What do you like best about your career in books?
The very best thing about bookselling is the absolute authenticity it provides.  Perhaps other retail allows for similar passion, but selling shoes or sporting goods doesn’t seem as authentic.  Every day we get to talk enthusiastically to people about something we really do love.

That’s a rarity anywhere, it’s certainly a rarity at one’s job.

4. What does the book-buying public understand least about independent bookstores?
Independent bookstores and independent business of all kinds provide a tax base for thousands of urban centres in North America.  From a purely economic standpoint, everything collapses if that’s not kept up.

But indie bookstores are entirely staffed by readers.  Chain stores are not, and if plants don’t get watered they wither away.

5. What is the hardest part about being a bookstore owner in 2012?
The hardest part of bookselling in 2012 is the simple fact that there are so many other entertainment options and fierce competition within the industry.

‘Twas ever thus.

6. What types of books does your store stock and/or specialize in?
Words Worth Books is a general bookstore so we try to get to everything in our stock. Literary fiction, crime fiction, history, sciences and all manner of everything else.

7. What are some of your favorite titles?
Our favourite titles change daily to weekly, but the book I’m wild about at the moment is a slick little crime novel by a Montrealer Robert Pobi Bloodman is an entirely accomplished first novel in which an FBI man on Long Island has to solve a series of grisly murders in the teeth of a Katrina-like storm that’s days away.  I’d actually like to buy stock in the guy’s career if it becomes possible.  He’s that good.

8. What is your most current best seller?
Our current best sellers are the same as elsewhere I imagine.  It’s a Fifty Shades planet right now.  The rest of us just live on it.

Classic?
The filming of Gatsby is giving the book a new audience and that’s a fine thing.

9. What have been some of your favorite (or most memorable) author events?
We’ve done author events for twenty years and the best one is probably having former Prime Minister Jean Chretien drop by about five years back.
Actually, we’ve got something on that level coming this fall, I just can’t talk about it yet.
It’s a heck of a perk meeting authors and one of the best parts of the job.

10. Any strange, wild or crazy-but-true stories?
Crazy stories?  The fact that in the press, it’s said constantly that ebooks are taking over.
They’re certainly beyond the early adapter, but they’re far from taking the print option off the table.
A crazy story if ever there was one.

11. What book are you, or will you, hand-sell with a vengeance?
I’ll be hand selling Dana Spiota’s Stone Arabia this summer.
It’s not only the Great American novel, but the Great American rock and roll novel.  Damn near flawless.

12. Is there anything else you would like to tell our blog readers?
For your readers, I’d simply ask that you shop indie bookstores.  We know our stuff and we’re more likely to hire you than Amazon is.

 

Indie Bookstore Spotlight: Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe

The independent bookstore is a cultural and community hub – authors are introduced, works read aloud to an audience and ideas are shared.

Each month, we will be featuring an independent bookstore from across Canada, proving what a special role these shops play in fostering authors, community and a love of reading. For March, we are featuring Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe.

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