Yukon’s only used bookstore is beginning a new chapter with a much-needed move to a central downtown location.
Eight-year-old Well-Read Books is joining in the downtown’s recent bout of storefront shuffle, or musical stores, and abandoning its post opposite the old Canadian Tire building.
When the music stops, Well-Read will have taken the place of Rose’s and Steve’s Music at Fourth and Wood.
Bookstore manager and co-owner Jan Stick hopes the move will be over in time for Canada Day.
“It just about feels like how it felt when we were planning and opening the new store,” she says. “It’s the same excitement and adrenaline and fear and terror.”
Stick expects family and friends of the three owners — Karen Walker, Hans Herdes and herself — to help transport the books, but she’s also considering hiring a soccer team at the end of the month to help tote the tomes.
The move comes as the shop is struggling for foot traffic and space.
When it opened in July, 1999, a full Qwanlin Mall and busy Canadian Tire helped to make Fourth and Ogilvie a busy shopping destination.
Though the CYFN and a new Shopper’s Drug Mart are expected to add new life to the area, Stick suspects it’s still a good idea to move closer to the downtown office and tourist district.
“I’ve been amazed at the people that say to me, ‘Oh, I can walk there on my lunch hour.’”
Stick already lures in-the-door traffic by selling newspapers, bus tickets, some theatre and music tickets and the occasional fundraising raffle.
The store also maintains repeat business by offering a tempting store-credit scheme for secondhand books: if you bring in a $10-listed paperback the store wants, you get a $2.50 credit towards your next book purchase.
Though the Salvation Army and Mac’s Fireweed Antiquarian section also offer an assortment of previously owned gems, Well-Read traffics a large selection of children’s and trade paperback titles, most searchable from a computer terminal.
In the new location, Well-Read’s rent will spike by 50 per cent, but it is worth it for Stick who can’t stand the cluttered-feel the old shop has begun to acquire.
Stick opens the backroom, full of boxes of duplicate titles. There’s no room to move around.
The new space will have basement storage, she says, and — she does a little dance, punching her arms into the air — she’ll finally have her own office.
“The rent is going up, but we’re getting a bigger space, better location, an office, better storage and better parking.”
When the store first opened, Well-Read had 11,000 books in stock.
Today, it has twice that many.
It’s been two years since they’ve been able to use their once-loved stage for children’s book readings, book launches, authors’ visits and musical acts.
Staff would roll a few moveable shelves aside and bring out chairs. Now, there’s just no room to manoeuvre.
Mary Hudgin, their children’s specialist and a long-time employee of Well-Read Books, is also a lifetime student of bookbinding and repairs.
In the new store, the owners intend to stock uncut sheets of handmade paper along with supplies for home bookmaking.
Stick also hopes to take over Steve’s Music’s sheet music and music-book inventory, as a service to local teachers.
One thing that won’t change in the move is the smell, or lack thereof.
Stick is proud that she has kept her bookstore airy and fresh, unlike most of the pack-rat mazes she’s visited in the South as part of her scouting missions.
Every paperback coming in has its cover washed with soapy water, which helps the used-bookstore to not smell like one.
Stick may start advertising some of the more rare (and higher-priced) items online.
Besides a drawer full of old mineral-survey maps of Yukon lands, which prospectors are still interesting in, she claims, Stick has a few one-of-a-kind finds.
There’s the handmade copy of Norman Lee’s infamous account of his failed 1898 Klondike Cattle Drive, for example.
It’s one of only 50 produced, with special paper, binding, and map inserts. The title lists at $500.
But the entire store won’t go fully virtual.
At a time where used bookstores are closing their fronts and moving online in the face of unaffordable urban rents, Yukon’s Well-Read is instead working to become a more accessible and visible presence.
“I love the bookstore, I love the people coming in,” says Stick.
As much as she enjoys recommending titles — Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer and Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine come to mind — Stick enjoys getting recommendations from her customers.
And she loves, loves, getting first pick from what they bring in from their weeded-out personal libraries.
Stick is able to stick by one definite conclusion after running a bookstore for eight years: “The Yukon is really well-read.”