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The River Trading Company

Posted by Dayna Winter / Posted on November 7, 2010

River Trading CoThe River Trading Company is somewhat of a silver lining for owner David McGowan, who, after 28 years in I.T., found himself with a cardboard box full of desk contents. McGowan spun a hobby and personal collection into a retirement project - a little buy-and-sell bookstore in a burgeoning Parkdale strip.

River Trading CoWhile I browse the shop, waiting for McGowan to finish with a haggling book seller, I find nothing out of the ordinary. This is your typical used book joint, although much tidier, with the usual categories plus a splash of complementary media (CDs, mags) thrown in for good measure.

River Trading CoThen I find a flawless hardcover (a title by my favourite author that I miraculously hadn't read) at a garage sale steal! McGowan explains that he wanted to create "an upscale space with Parkdale prices". He succeeded. A customer commented that the shop was like a "New York bookstore without the pretension".

River Trading CoMcGowan is like a kindly bearded uncle, proudly sharing details of his own handiwork from the shelves he built himself, to the pine floor dug out from under 5 layers of linoleum. This is a labour of love. I ask about the sign in the window - "Mostly Books". Other than books, a glass display case houses other 2nd -hand finds, a hodge-podge of mostly South American and Chinese pottery.

River Trading CoThe meat of the business, however, is a carefully curated collection of fiction, non-fiction and reference literature, gleaned mainly from auctions. McGowan's been told that his shop has "no filler" and he's not sure if it's a compliment. It is.

River Trading CoOpen since July, The River has already made friends in the 'hood. It took over as host of West End Stories when neighbouring Poor John's turfed the monthly reading series in favour of live entertainment. McGowan has also set up a community board, and took in a stray cat. The lucky feline, dubbed Walter, now sleeps in the store overnight.

River Trading CoMcGowan wanted to create a bookstore that he would be comfortable to shop in. He did, in a lemons-to-lemonade story that is inspiring. But don't take it from me. Pull up a stool at the cash wrap and hear his West End story for yourself.

River Trading CoRiver Trading CoPhotos by Dennis Marciniak.



Welshgrrl / November 8, 2010 at 09:32 am
I'm jealous. Would some enterprising person PLEASE open up a bookstore - overstock, used, anything - on St. Clair West? The closest place to me is Type in Forest Hill Village and that's not even close :(
Colin / November 8, 2010 at 09:38 am
This place looks fantastic! I've been meaning to check it out, it's so close to my house.
CS / November 8, 2010 at 09:50 am
What's the address for this place?
EM / November 8, 2010 at 10:08 am
Oh, why, why, why do independent bookstores and shops allow pets? I was interested the store until I read about the cat. I love cats and dogs, but am allergic to them, and can't spend more than a few minutes indoors with them. More than 15 minutes and I get the symptoms of a bad, runny-nose, weeping-eyes cold for at least 12 hours.
Tyler / November 8, 2010 at 11:29 am
I happened to stumble in here on Sunday and I must say it's pretty amazing. I bought the 6-book first edition set of Winston Churchill's The Second World War pictured in 20101106-river_trading08.jpg.
Jan / November 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm
@EM: Claritin.
Julie / November 8, 2010 at 12:53 pm
Congratulations David! The store looks amazing and the logo in the window looks fabulous. Can't wait to browse.

kerry / November 8, 2010 at 12:55 pm
lovely store, lovely owner. great selection, great prices!

i don't know the exact address, but its just east of lansdown...
Cara replying to a comment from CS / November 8, 2010 at 03:40 pm
1418 Queen St. West. It's on the right hand side of the article.
bob / November 8, 2010 at 05:35 pm
"New York bookstore"?

Are you kidding me? Trust me, they don't compare to what Toronto, or even Ottawa has.

Why do people always think that comparing something to New York is the same as sugar-coating it?
Sham replying to a comment from Welshgrrl / November 9, 2010 at 09:11 am
Totally agree!
Welshgrrl / November 9, 2010 at 02:47 pm
Thanks Sham! I would give almost anything to see a Book City or a BMV in the Christie/Bathurst-St. Clair W area ... right now the used book sections in Goodwill and Sally Ann just don't quite cut it ...
David McGowan replying to a comment from CS / November 10, 2010 at 08:15 pm
The River Trading Company is located at 1418 Queen Street West, just east of Lansdowne.
We are open weekdays 12 (noon) to 10pm, closed Tuesdays, and Saturday from 11 am to 10, and Sunday from 11 am to 7:30.
We buy books as well as sell them. Feel free to drop by and browse.
Will / November 22, 2010 at 12:06 am
"an upscale space with Parkdale prices"
wtf, is that supposed to mean?

i frankly hate the whole 'indie' scene popping up in parkdale, like it's 'hip' to face the struggles of parkdale.

don't even get me started with those Parkdale cloth bags.
Taral Wayne / February 8, 2011 at 10:36 pm
Why can't we have books in Parkdale as well as discarded needles and condoms?

What "Parkdale prices" means is that the average book at The River is priced the same as it would be if you found it at the Sally Ann or Goodwill. There's another bookstore up Roncesville called A Good Read, but the prices are Collector's prices, and the average figure on the sticker on a book there is twice what it would be at The River.

What is "indie" supposed to mean, by the way? You mean upscale? Fashionable? Trendy? Somehow I don't see The River that way. David doesn't seem like a trendy to me at all.
Simon Xie / March 18, 2011 at 10:21 pm
Hi I would Like to know how to get there from Markham. I live on 14 Ave and Brimly. I would like to buy some books on submarines and law and confederation of canada. Books on the weather. I wonder if you have any?
frances replying to a comment from Simon Xie / March 27, 2011 at 06:20 am
I love Simon's comment! ...and hope that you were able to find the eclectic books that you were seeking. It is certainly worth your while to visit David's store in Parkdale. While searching for 'submarines' you will most certainly come across another unexpected discovery.
Travis / December 27, 2011 at 04:58 am
Thats david. hhehe. I bought some amazing books at this store. I am still waiting for this book store to have books on Richard Dawkin, Sam harris and Christopher Hitchens. I just can't wait to buy there books in this store. Hehehe
Marie / May 12, 2014 at 03:35 pm
Sadly The River Trading Company is closing down and re-locating to Hamilton... Parkdale needs a used book store :-(
Taral Wayne / August 13, 2014 at 04:12 am
Gone now. The doors closed in July, after only four years in business. David said the rents were too high and sales were the same as they had been when rent was low. The last time I saw him he hadn't decided yet if they were going to re-establish themselves in Hamilton, Ontario.
Susan / August 5, 2015 at 10:21 am
David has opened in Hamilton now! A beautiful space at Barton & Sanford. :)

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