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Bookstores

Nicholas Hoare

Posted by Tim / Posted on January 17, 2008

Nicholas Hoare Books
Nicholas Hoare has been a neighbourhood favourite at Front and Church street for more than 16 years. The bookstore was the second location in the small chain's empire. Montreal came first and they have since opened a store in Ottawa. On weekends, families and their kids stop by after a visit to the nearby St. Lawrence Market while during the week walk-ins tend to draw from the Bay Street crowd.

The man behind the name, Nicholas Hoare himself, was born in England where he served an apprenticeship at the famous Heywood Hill bookstore in London. Once in Canada, he decided to open a store with a decidedly British feel to it. Many of the books are sourced from the U.K. and the interior is outfitted with brick and wood, a fireplace, laddered shelves and oil paintings. There's a notable absence of prominent signage announcing best-sellers or other sections throughout the store.

There's also large plants, some plush (if not fading) couches, a children's section in the back, and a secluded mezzanine to watch all of the action below. The staff are knowledgeable and helpful. Many of them have chosen book selling as a career and have worked at the store for many years.

Nicholas Hoare Ladder

The last year for Nicholas Hoare has been a trying one. Like all bookstores, they were affected by the changing dynamics of the industry - the advance of big box stores such as Chapters, the emergence of online shopping and the rise of the Canadian dollar. They also lost Ben McNally, their long-time manager, who left to open his own store, Ben McNally Books, after a fall-out that was widely reported in the local media.

Yet despite the changes life and book selling goes on. The store continues to have book launches and author readings at the store. In the fall and winter months they put on the Hoare's High Tea author series at the King Edward Hotel and the Food for Thought author series at Pangaea Restaurant. They also organize frequent events at the Toronto Reference Library.

Nicholas Hoare Seats

Nicholas Hoare Tree

Nicholas Hoare Front

Nicholas Hoare Kids Books

Nicholas Hoare Mezzanine

Nicholas Hoare Painting

Nicholas Hoare Outside

Discussion

18 Comments

Zorbs / January 17, 2008 at 04:58 pm
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Love this store!
The Ignorant / January 17, 2008 at 06:07 pm
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Question from an ignorant shopper, so please do not crucify me... Why are online or bigbox BOOKstores bad? I like to go into the independents to look through quirky books that otherwise would not be displayed in the Indigo/Chapters/Coles. Other than that, for sheer choice I like the bigboxes and for buying "sometimes useless" textbooks for school that I am forced to buy, I like the online discounts. It think there is something for everyone. Isn't there any way for the independents to form some kind of cooperative to buy in bulk as the bigboxes?
Tim / January 17, 2008 at 06:21 pm
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I agree. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong in shopping online, or at Chapters; but all things being equal I like to support the local/independent business.

The reality though is that all things are not equal. Online stores or Chapters usually have better selection or prices - so the best independent stores (and the ones I shop at) have learned to carve out a niche and specialize in certain categories. On top of that they offer better (and more expert) service.
Disparishun / January 17, 2008 at 09:42 pm
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There are lots of different takes, but one reasonable one is that big boxes aren't bad, just so price-competitive that they crowd smaller competitors out of the market. In bookstores, as in other creative sectors, too much market concentration may reduce the diversity of voices.
Laura / January 18, 2008 at 04:09 am
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My god, this store is sexy.
Joy Acharjee / October 25, 2008 at 06:13 pm
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There's a holier-than-thou attitude at this place, almost as if you need a credit check before you walk in. None of the sections have any signs - they probably think signs are "so Indigo" - so you make your own way through the store to find what you want. The only saving grace is the better selection of books you'll find here than if you went to a "regular" bookstore.
shooveAssonse / August 27, 2009 at 12:25 pm
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Sen. John McCain met with an infuriated mint at a town-hall meeting here trim care remodel Wednesday, from time to chance having to stop to talk and telling mockery woman who wouldn't abandon yelling that she had to leave.

The Arizona senator hadn't anyway opened up the congress at <a href=http://www.newhot.info>;<font color=Black>How I make $56700 a month with new forex trading robot</font></a> McCain's centre Phoenix church to questions when one audience buddy continuously yelled to the ground him.

"You're fortunate to suffer with to proscription or you're prosperous to keep to leave," McCain told the woman. When security guards approached to escort her unacceptable, he told her "Goodbye, foresee ya" to a round of applause.
anon / November 29, 2009 at 09:12 pm
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This store is cute for the selection of independent bookstores available in Toronto. Unfortunately I have a hard time bringing myself into the location after the questionable customer service I have experienced. After each visit it takes me a while to build myself up to going back in, and each time I am met with the same service experience. Its a shame because this store is a nice alternative to a bigbox store and it has a special atmosphere. The service in question is the treatment of males and youth in the store. Every time I have gone out of my routine to visit the store I am instantly accosted and berated by the associates to turn over my baggage to them to keep behind their counter until I am ready to leave. I do not look rough around the edges or twelve years old. I dress respectable and carry myself in such a way. I have questioned turning over my items before and I have been told that they do not need my business if I do not. That response I feel is not appropriate. I have also been with females wile entering the store, as well as, entering at the same time as older patrons. Every occasion the males have been pointed out loudly from shouts from the cash stand to leave items with them. Only the males though. Women with their larger than life purses, even school bags over their shoulders have never in my presence been asked to turn their purses and items over to the cashier.
its unfortunate, but I will always be taking my business elsewhere and when asked about this store, I will have a hard time recommending it to anyone.
As a person who has previously in my youth worked in retail, I understand security and theft, but 95% of stores handle the issue in a better manner and are able to not make a potential shopper feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.
Heidi Henderson / December 2, 2009 at 10:39 pm
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Hello there,

I'm not sure if Nicholas Hoare is related to the same painting family, but I'm trying to find information on Elizabeth Hoare who lived and painted in Vancouver in the 1940s and 50s.

Cheers,

Heidi
smiley / February 22, 2010 at 02:08 am
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One time I placed an order for a book and after a few weeks I received a call saying the book is ready for pick-up. I rushed to the store after work and arrived at 6 o'clock sharp. The store clerk was just about to close the door and I gave him a big smile and said I'm here to pick up a book I was very much looking forward to (I was really excited), but the blank-faced clerk coldly told me the store is now closed and locked the door right in front of me as if I were an ignorant vermin (maybe I was to him). This store surely looks pretty but I felt something essential about a bookstore is lacking here. Next week I found the same book at Mabel's Fables Children's Bookstore on Mount Pleasant and the store clerk was very happy that I was buying the book because she also liked that book and gave me a few more recommendations which I also enjoyed later. I have never been back to Nicholas Hoare since because frankly speaking I don't recognize this pretty boutique place as a bookstore anymore.
Marc Bernstein / June 21, 2010 at 04:52 pm
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The store in Ottawa is much better,has a better selection.
watford gap / September 25, 2010 at 08:44 pm
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I really love the layout and atmosphere of this store, and as a librarian I'm a huge supporter of independent bookshops, which is why I've been back here half a dozen times in the hope that the staff were just having an off day when I visited. They weren't. I know people who rave about how friendly and helpful the staff have been towards them, and indeed I've seen them behave this way towards other patrons, but I've never encountered anything other than hostility on my visits. Maybe I don't fit the demographic they want for their store? Regardless, being followed around the room, glared at when I pick up a book, and having the staff say nothing but barking the price at me when they ring up my purchases doesn't really inspire a great deal of customer loyalty. And woe betide the customer who wanders in ten minutes to closing time...
Smiley / December 1, 2010 at 01:23 am
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I went back here again (I really shouldn't have) but I was told to leave. What did I do wrong? Why do they treat customers like that?!
Jacqueline / June 17, 2012 at 11:52 am
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I can't understand the appeal of this store. Sure, it looks pretty but the service is awful for all of the reasons stated above.

I too, am a librarian and would occasionally visit the store but I had enough of their elitist attitude and just stopped going many years ago. What irked me the most, however, was that there was no rhyme or reason to the organization of the books.
J T / October 1, 2012 at 03:12 am
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Fine store and fine service.
watford gap / February 17, 2013 at 02:14 pm
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Entertainingly, I've since been back here with a more outgoing pal who is perhaps a better fit for the clientele they'd rather attract. Her chattiness prompted friendlier service, whereas my (very polite) attempts to assist when the bookseller was unfamiliar with the Percy Jackson YA series that a young patron was ordering - 20 million copies sold in more than 35 countries, *but did it win the Booker*? - prompted the death stare.

I know they have a cute little pun on the door about 'no sacs please, we're British', but I'd hate for my fellow countrymen to all get tarred by the same snooty brush.

Succinctly: nice space, interesting selection of books and well-displayed (even though I agree the lack of specific sections can be confusing til you get the hang of it), sofas and fireplaces and, if they like the cut of your jib, decent customer service. I hope a new bookstore reopens in this space - I cannot imagine a more perfect layout, and if they're ever hiring...
NativeOfToronto / April 1, 2013 at 12:03 pm
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Some have said there's this coldness or elitist feel to the service at Nicholas Hoare, but it might just be misunderstood. There have been some views and stories made public out there, even online, from visitors and even former staff, that Mr. Hoare is not a very nice character/boss. Perhaps this is reflecting in the staff? They are in fact, quite nice and helpful once past that layer. At first it may seem cold, but afterwards you begin to think it might be that they are just affected by it all.

Whatever's the case, it's too bad that this book shop is closing, because not only is it a wonderful business and setting, but the St.Lawrence District needs a bookstore, especially one that is a true representative of BIA or Main Street culture. Now that Nicholas Hoare is closing, please turn towards our other independent bookstores, the few remaining out there. A very sad situation for a so-called major city.
NativeOfToronto / April 1, 2013 at 12:06 pm
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Hopefully the beautiful shopspace won't end up being wasted as some dumb, ugly, tacky business, but instead becomes another bookstore (this would be the best outcome!), or a mom/pop cafe.

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