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Donate to Help Save Toronto’s This Ain’t the Rosedale Library

Charlie Huisken of This Saint the Rosedale Library. Photo by John Elmslie.

The call has gone out that another friend of books, writers, creativity & independent presses needs our help.

This Ain’t the Rosedale Library, legendary Toronto bookstore and nucleus for the writing community in that city is in danger of closing its doors and adding to the recent litany of closures of great Canadian bookstores.

The community of friends, book lovers and patrons of the store have rallied in support and the owners, Charlie and Jesse Huisken, have worked hard to put themselves in a position to receive donations to keep the doors open while a workable solution is developed to ensure that the store is viable going forward.

I would like to submit to my friends out here in BC and to everyone east and north – and even outside of Canada – that this is not a regional thing. This is not something that we can leave to the community in Toronto and environs.

It is no secret that with the recent closures of Duthie Books and Sophia Books here in Vancouver that there was much gnashing of teeth over the unjust fate of independent bookstores in the modern age.

In those cases there was no second chance, no opportunity for the community to really come together and to put some money behind their words to save a store from oblivion.

We have that chance with This Ain’t.

Please donate what you can to the paypal account set up for the store so that next time you’re in Toronto you can walk through the door of This Ain’t the Rosedale Library and tell Charlie & Jesse how amazing their store is and how happy you were to donate in this crucial moment to keep the store open.

I guarantee that you’ll have made a friend for life.

Here’s how the situation is described on This Ain’t’s website:

Our situation, which could be told as a long story about the plight of bookstores in Toronto and in many North American cities, is really quite a simple one. At our new location in Kensington Market we found a space with lower rent and overheads which thus represented an enticing solution to the difficulty of inflated rents facing many stores of our kind. For a year we worked in this space happily, until the recession hit with full force and we began to fall behind with our rent. Our response to this situation was similar to that of any small retail business. We bought shrewdly, held regular events, did book tables for small press launches, conferences and author appearances, did not invest in advertising, fixtures, signage or renovations, kept only minimal staff (the store has one part-time staff person), and most importantly worked full-time or more with long store hours, while drawing the absolute minimum for our own rent and expenses. In this way we were able, albeit very gradually, to pay our back-rent, and maintain an amicable relationship with out landlord. While the space presented a number of challenges, including our basement flooding whenever there was heavy rain, and though we heard many stories of rent reductions in our own neighborhood we were not offered this option, but continued none-the-less to enjoy working at the store and feel inspired by our customers’ enthusiasm for the books that we were selling. Quite suddenly this changed. Our landlord became impatient with the rate at which we were able to pay her and made demands for large repayments, without providing a precise accounting of what was owing. In light of our workload and the proliferation of other causes in this city, a fundraiser remained only an idea. Instead we responded to these unrealistic demands with an informal proposal which would not have been profitable to us, but to our landlord. We received only further demands which we attempted to meet within our resources until the locks were changed on Friday June 19th. We are once again offering our landlord a choice which would be beneficial to her and allow us to re-open our doors, and are hoping that the outpouring of encouragement from the public might influence our situation. Along with this we are seeking help with organizing a fundraiser, and we are accepting PayPal donations. As we were living day-to-day, as many small business owners do for years after opening or relocating, our own livelihood has been erased, and our present situation is very uncertain. None-the-less we have seen that many people value what we do and are eager to help us, and thus remain hopeful that a resolution is around the corner.

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Some Thoughts on the Closure of Duthie Books on 4th Avenue
January 19, 2010, 1:16 PM
Filed under: BC Booksellers Association, Bookstore Showcase | Tags: , ,

After 53 Years Duthie Books is Closing Their Doors. Photo by Jacek S.

Alright. It’s getting a little dusty in here.

I’m going thru the phases. First: Denial. Now: Crushing realizations. Some time later: Acceptance or something like it.

Here’s a letter that I just posted on Steven Beattie’s blog that sums up how I feel right now.

Sad news.

As someone who worked at the original Duthie’s flagship store in downtown Vancouver back in the 90’s it’s easy for me to say that this is sad news but it’s hard for me to say that this is terribly surprising news.

It was pretty clear from certain emanations that Cathy’s heart just wasn’t in it anymore and hadn’t been for quite some time.  And given the current industry/economic climate, that’s not hard to understand.

The writing on the wall was in very clear,  plain script. It wasn’t difficult to read.

I’m sure that Cathy has known for a long, long time that this day was coming and it must have been an incredibly agonizing decision for her to make.

It’s a very heavy legacy to put an end to.

It’s easy for people to point fingers at all of the usual suspects and get puffed up in a righteous rage about news like this but to me, one who worked there when the franchise was at its peak in the mid 90’s and who has friends who lost their jobs there today, I think it’s more honest to say that the train had simply reached the end of the line.

53 years is a long time and Cathy and Celia and Ria, my old buddy Mike Varty, Jane Sayers, Dina Del Bucchia, Susan Jahnke and everyone else that prowls those aisles should be proud of what they’ve done.

They should be happy that they’ve made such a huge impact on the culture of this city and even though the curtain is coming down on a legendary piece of Vancouver’s literary culture we have to believe that there are better days ahead of us.

All of us.

Thank you and best wishes to all of my friends who worked at Duthie Books over the years and to the Duthie family for making it so good while it lasted.

I’m going to go over there tomorrow and buy me some books.

The Famous Duthie Books on 4th Avenue Window. Photo by Szimek S.



Sitting in with the BC Booksellers Association

A month or so ago I was sitting in the office of Boxcar Marketing with Monique Trottier.  We were sitting around and discussing our usual panoply of concerns about the state – if not stasis – of the book publishing industry as well as BookCamp Toronto when she received an email from Rob ‘President for Life’ Wiersma.  He was looking for someone to speak to booksellers about using social media to get the word out and build communities online.  Monique would be on tour at the time so she recommended me.  Rob, clearly out of options, agreed.

When I arrived at the Marriott Hotel downtown and walked into that conference room I felt an immediate tingle of trepidation.  Wait a minute… who are all these people?  I recognize Rob, Ria from Duthie Books, a few others but I had never seen so many booksellers in one room before.  It was crazy.

Luckily I snuck in quietly as they tore the representative from some government retail agency apart over a number of cryptic issues involving credit card transactions.  Then Lee Trentedue of Galiano Island Bookstore spoke very eloquently about cats and building and supporting communities through a Buy Locally program.

Steve Osgoode, Director of Digital Marketing and Business Development for Harper Collins Canada, was up next.  Minor wardrobe malfunction aside he did an excellent job of speaking to new developments in the digital book world – from electronic galleys, to ebook sales to the ongoing improvements to digital catalogs.

I was up next and spoke for about 30 minutes on social media – blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc… – and managed to do well enough that no one passed out from boredom.

In the afternoon there were several roundtable discussions focusing on issues specific to the BC book trade and every bookseller participated.  The discussions were lively, everyone was engaged and Rob Wiersma deserves a lot of credit for putting it all together.  I look forward to more of it next year.

Over the next few days I will start to post links to various booksellers whom I met over the weekend and provide some thoughts on what and how to bring independent bookselling into the present with eyes to the future.  I was really excited by all the people that I met over the weekend and look forward to getting to know them more.