Another one might bite the dust…

Posted by @ 8:11 am on June 24th, 2010

This Ain’t Rosedale Library is one of Canada coolest bookstores. Seriously: even the Guardian thinks so. (They said it was #8 in the world!!) I found the bookstore on accident. I was in Toronto to give a reading and had some time to pass, so I walked around until I found this little bookstore, there were hipsters hanging outside (and in), which would usually be a deterrent (I find them intimidating), but then, I saw a glimmer, yes, I saw Rikki Ducornet’s One Marvelous Thing displayed in the window. Next to it, wow, Jesse Ball, and suddenly, like magic, I was inside the store, only it wasn’t a store, it was like looking at the bookshelves I always wanted. The whole store was filled with beautiful indie books, both from the States and Canada. It was a candy store, or maybe one of those medicinal marijuana stores they’re rumored to have in California, or maybe it was like getting to heaven and finding yourself with 72 beautiful virgins: that was This Ain’t Rosedale Library to me.

I say “was” because This Ain’t Rosedale Library is probably going to be closed down. A couple days ago, I got an email from a friend, subject heading: Fuck, the body of the email was just this link.

Last weekend, owners Charlie and Jesse Huisken arrived to locked doors. There was a notice from the bailiff that the locks had been changed because they were behind on rent. This is what the owners had to say:

Our situation, which could be told as a long story about the plight of bookstores in Toronto and in many North American cities, is really quite a simple one. At our new location in Kensington Market we found a space with lower rent and overheads which thus represented an enticing solution to the difficulty of inflated rents facing many stores of our kind. For a year we worked in this space happily, until the recession hit with full force and we began to fall behind with our rent. Our response to this situation was similar to that of any small retail business. We bought shrewdly, held regular events, did book tables for small press launches, conferences and author appearances, did not invest in advertising, fixtures, signage or renovations, kept only minimal staff (the store has one part-time staff person), and most importantly worked full-time or more with long store hours, while drawing the absolute minimum for our own rent and expenses. In this way we were able, albeit very gradually, to pay our back-rent, and maintain an amicable relationship with out landlord. While the space presented a number of challenges, including our basement flooding whenever there was heavy rain, and though we heard many stories of rent reductions in our own neighborhood we were not offered this option, but continued none-the-less to enjoy working at the store and feel inspired by our customers’ enthusiasm for the books that we were selling. Quite suddenly this changed. Our landlord became impatient with the rate at which we were able to pay her and made demands for large repayments, without providing a precise accounting of what was owing. In light of our workload and the proliferation of other causes in this city, a fundraiser remained only an idea. Instead we responded to these unrealistic demands with an informal proposal which would not have been profitable to us, but to our landlord. We received only further demands which we attempted to meet within our resources until the locks were changed on Friday June 19th. We are once again offering our landlord a choice which would be beneficial to her and allow us to re-open our doors, and are hoping that the outpouring of encouragement from the public might influence our situation. Along with this we are seeking help with organizing a fundraiser, and we are accepting PayPal donations. As we were living day-to-day, as many small business owners do for years after opening or relocating, our own livelihood has been erased, and our present situation is very uncertain. None-the-less we have seen that many people value what we do and are eager to help us, and thus remain hopeful that a resolution is around the corner.

Here’s my problem: This Ain’t Rosedale Library isn’t some aberration. Independent bookstores everywhere are in trouble. Duh. In fact, there’s this really adorable mystery bookstore in Kingston that’s about it close its doors permanently sometime this summer. There weren’t any cool indie bookstores in South Bend, where I used to live. I mean, not to be completely melodramatic, but they’re dying. And whereas I can’t deny how quickly e-platforms will come to make most books obsolete, for the time being, can’t we keep our bookstores? Please?

This Ain’t Rosedale Library has a fundraiser going on. If you have the spare change, please, kick in something. I know most of you don’t live in Toronto, much less Canada, but this has less to do with geography and everything to do with our love of books and the places where books gather.

This post isn’t about me begging for money though. I want to know about your favorite bookstores. Do they mean anything to you, or are they just bookstores? What would happen if it closed? This the trend, ladies and gents, we should be used to it by now. But This Ain’t Rosedale Library hurts a lot more than the rest.