Despite declining in numbers during the recent 10 years, the used bookstore is still a Toronto staple. The uniqueness of each store is what keeps customers coming back to their favourite - whether it's the selection of books, the feel of the store, or the staff.
In the case of NDJ Books, it's most definitely the latter. Located at 504 Yonge Street, between College and Wellesley, the store is always staffed by the owner and operator - Nebojsa Knezic, who makes every customer feel like a long-lost friend.
No matter what I'm looking for when I visit, Nebojsa will spring from the cashier seat to scour the overflowing shelves of the one-room store, or failing to find anything, the dangerously crowded storage space in the back - complete with a bookcase that acts as a rotating wall. And when I have thirty (or a lot more) minutes of spare time, I talk with him on a range of subjects, from philosophy to politics to soccer. That, for me, is what makes the store a pleasure to be in.
A recent conversation started when I asked for a copy of "Molto Italiano", Mario Batali's cookbook. While Nebojsa couldn't find it, he let me into the chaotic storage area to look for it myself, after which point I forgot about my book and spent the next hour listening to him talk about life.
Mr Knezic left Sarajevo with his family to find peace in Toronto, which he praises as a vibrant multicultural city with little overt racism. As a journalist and a writer, his options in Canada were limited - as he put it "...as an immigrant, you can open a pizza store, a dollar store, or drive a cab". He chose to put his money into a bookstore, as that was a natural extension of his love of literature and the written word - and for 11 years, NDJ Books has survived the domination of the Chapters-Indigo behemoth and the rise of the online retailers.
Mr Knezic laments the closure of the many bookstores that used to be a more common feature of Toronto's streets, but he is hopeful that his knowledge of almost all subjects will keep NDJ Books going for many years more.
Although I did not leave with "Molto Italiano", I did buy a copy of "Balkan Ghosts", Robert D. Kaplan's travelogue of the Balkans. It seemed appropriate, and I will definitely be back soon and chat with Nebojsa again.