type books

There's hope for independent bookstores in Toronto

There's finally a good news story about an independent Toronto book store. And that's a rarity, notes Type Books co-owner Samara Samara Walbohm. She and Joanne Saul opened Type on Queen Street West, across from Trinity Bellwoods Park, 10 years ago.

"It seems to always be a media story when a book store closes and not necessarily when a book store opens," says Walbohm.

She and Saul had no book-related retail experience before they started Type. Both came from academia. Walbohm notes they were pretty green when they started their new venture back in 2006.

"I think that naivety was kind of an optimism that sort of, you know, gave us the energy and the daring to kind of forge forward and say, 'okay, we're going to do this,'" she says.

And while a number of notable book stores shut down in Toronto since 2006, Walbohm remains optimistic about the future.

She's proud of the community she and Saul - as well as their dedicated team members - have built over the years. These employees help curate Type's varied selection and they support small publishers as well as emerging writers. Many customers come in to seek out recommendations from certain staffers.

It's not just Type that's doing well in Toronto. Revenue is up for Indigo Books and the company is opening a massive new concept store near Sherway Gardens.

Print book sales are up (1.6 per cent or $983.4 million) across the country, according to BookNet Canada.

Walbohm, however, says she and her team have faced many challenges over the years, including the fluctuating American dollar and the emergence of e-books. Luckily - for print fans at least - e-book sales have flattened and even declined.

She also muses about the buy local movement. "People are more aware and committed to supporting independence and I think that comes with the food movement as well," she says.

For now though, Walbohm is focusing on the celebrating Type's 10th birthday. She and Saul have watched the West Queen West neighbourhood transform and also opened a second location in Forest Hill. She's proud that Type has become a local destination and still gets excited when she sees people using Type bookmarks and book bags in public.

"We feel so lucky that we've been here for 10 years," she says. "And going strong."

Photo by @mralexbower via Instagram.


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