January 23, 2014

Toronto bookstore to close its flagship location

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Continuing an unfortunate trend up north, Toronto’s independent mini-chain of bookstores, Book City, will shutter its flagship location in the Annex neighborhood of the city. This follows the closing of another Book City in the West End area in March 2012, and the World’s Biggest Bookstore, which announced last November that it will shut down in February.

Gemma Karstens-Smith writes for The Star that the lease is up on Book City’s store at 501 Bloor St. West, and after 38 years in business, the owners just don’t see it as financially viable. This is in part due to the neighborhood changing over the years. Owner and founder Frans Donker says that the area was vibrant when they opened up shop in 1976, with more restaurants and markets; “Now,” he laments, “it’s all fast food joints. The area has changed rapidly in the last seven to eight years. And that is affecting our business.”

Julie Baldassi of Quill and Quire similarly quotes Donker saying:

You name it and it has chipped away at the Annex location. It’s an evolving, changing neighbourhood like every other neighbourhood in Toronto. Rent goes up every single year. Sales have slipped for a number of years, through no fault of the staff or our efforts.

The flagship Book City has fourteen employees who will now be out of a job — Donker says that telling them the news was even harder than losing the store itself. But he’s not pessimistic about the future, given the relative success of Book City’s other locations, of which there are three. He’ll be passing the torch to his son, Ian Donker, hoping that he can maintain and build on that foundation: “[Ian’s] determined to continue selling books. He’ll be the fourth generation selling books. He’s still extremely positive and so am I.”

 

Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.

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