TYPE books is my neighbourhood bookstore. Actually, that's not true. There's also Babel and Monkey's Paw - both good for certain occasions, but TYPE is my go-to. I depend on it for its well curated selection. It's not a huge store, but big enough. It seems to have all the books I'm looking for, and none of the filler that sometimes make large chains like Chapters seem a bit overwhelming.
The front of the store is my favourite. There are the staff's latest selections for books on design, the environment and other hot topics. Further inside there's a magazine and newspaper section which stocks independents like Shameless and Spacing as well as the Sunday New York Times. The back is devoted to children's books and travel, and throughout the store shelves are arranged into small but focused categories like cultural studies, artists and photographers, and cooking.
Perhaps most overlooked is the art gallery in the basement. It's not well advertised (and I suspect not well known), but there's usually some interesting book-related art to check out - definitely a little bit different than what's showing at some of the more established galleries down the street.
The store, which has been on Queen since April 2006, opened a second location this past November at 394 Spadina Road (416.487.8973) in Forest Hill Village. I recently connected with one of the store's owners, Joanne Saul, to find out what's made TYPE such as success. Read my interview below:
How does TYPE differentiate itself from mega chains like Chapters?
TYPE is different from the big chain in that it is responsive to the particular community it's located in. We call ourselves "your friendly neighbourhood bookstore" and we mean it. We host readings for local authors, we offer a literacy program for local schools, we will special order anything and everything, we will add to our inventory anything that is special-ordered more than once, we carry many small press books and feature a different small press every month at a discount of 15%. We can do all these things because we're small and independent and very community-focused.
What are some of the books you're recommending at the moment?
It depends on whom you ask! We have a small but very smart and quirky staff who have a diverse range of interests. I'm recommending The Road and The Gathering and Robert Bringhurst's Everywhere Being is Dancing and the unbelievably brilliant The Year of Magical Thinking and Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries and the Ivy and Bean series for any 6-year old girl. I know Mika our manager loves Michael Pollan's new book - In Defense of Food; Miranda July - No One Belongs Here More Than You; Alan Fletcher - The Art of Looking Sideways; and Junot Diaz - Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Why did you decide to include an art gallery downstairs? What sort of art does it focus on? How often does the exhibit change?
The gallery seemed to make sense given our focus on the neighbourhood. We feature local artists and we try to have book-themed or text-related shows. We "launched" the gallery with a show of "typergrids" by Ken Nicol (it seemed very appropriate) and we have featured illustrations from the KidsCan Visions in Poetry series (fabulous). We also hosted a graduating class of Bookarts students from OCAD as well as the amazing Penguin book covers of Alanna Cavanagh. We try to change it up every 4-6 weeks.
What sort of events do you hold at TYPE?
We have a lot of events at TYPE. It's something we pride ourselves on and we go out of our way to do. We do book launches, readings, private shopping nights, and school book fairs. We're a sponsor of the Scream Literary Festival and host a number of their events on site. We launched David Chariandy's GG-shortlisted and Giller-longlisted Soucouyant. The Hour has a segment filmed at the store. We have a weekly storytime with the amazing Mrs. Hanna and we host "Word Play" which is our literacy program aimed at 8-10 year olds from three local schools. There seems to always be something going on at the store, which is what I think makes it so unique.
What do you like most about the locations of your stores?
We now have two locations and each is unique and yet they share a feeling of community. The Queen West neighbourhood has been unbelievably welcoming and loyal. We owe the success (so far) of TYPE to those customers. We have lots and lots of regulars and they are smart, interesting, friendly, and completely community-oriented and committed to their neighbourhood. They choose to support an independent store and we appreciate that a lot.
We chose Forest Hill because it's also a smart, literate community that we were eager to participate in. It's a long-standing neighbourhood with deep roots and we are very excited to be there. So far, everyone has been extremely supportive and welcoming. Basically, it all comes down to the people.