River Trading Company
The 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.
While 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.
Then 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".
McGowan 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.
The 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.
Open 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.
McGowan 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.
Photos by Dennis Marciniak.