Just the Right Type: A Bookstore with Community in Its Heart
I had the pleasure of visiting the Queen Street location of TYPE Books to explore what makes the independent bookstore unique and viable amongst the current ebook boom and the trend of closing bookstores. I met with the co-owner Joanne Saul to chat about what makes TYPE one of the best places in Toronto to buy books.
TYPE began as a dream of two PhD graduates from U of T: Saul and Samara Walbohm. They both talked about what they would do if they didn’t stay in academia. Indy booksellers were closing, and the bookstores they wanted to shop in didn’t exist. So, they decided to create that place, one that could act as a community hub. They waited for an opening in the Trinity-Bellwoods area and once they found the store, they got to work painting the walls and designing the space. TYPE began its Queen street location in 2006 and then its Forest Hill location in 2007.
The Queen Street location includes a children’s area with colourful displays of new finds and great classics. You’ll feel right at home with the gentle lighting, artful walls and the leather mushroom-shaped stools, which offer a little relaxation while you read and escape to an imaginary world.
Community is at the heart of TYPE. Its most direct program is Word Play, a literacy program aimed at eight to ten year-olds. Word Play serves three schools in the community. It is hosted in the basement of the Queen Street location, and it is run by community volunteers and student-teacher candidates from York University. This program encourages the love of reading and aims to improve participants’ reading skills. Word Play is a charitable organization that TYPE has been involved with since it first opened.
TYPE also offers a book club, holds author events, promotes local publishers and has an art galley in its basement that features local artists’ work. Now how’s that for your local bookstore? Authors and publishers acknowledge the passion of TYPE and spread the word. Authors call TYPE daily to schedule book launches and readings.
TYPE is a haven for the customer and bibliophile that appreciates the value of a print book. With ebooks emerging everywhere you click, competition is fierce in the book industry. When TYPE opened up there was Amazon and big books, but ebooks are a new storm altogether. “Shopping for books online does not engage with the audience in the same way as being in a bookstore. Ebooks are not going anywhere but neither are print,” said Saul.
Browsing is a great way to stumble upon a new and exciting book. Sales reps go on buying trips and scan the scene for what’s hot. TYPE’s in-store book selections are also inspired by its diverse staff. It is this unique blend of talent along with the interests of customers that determine what books are on the shelves. “With an indy bookstore, the customer has to trust the bookseller. You know your customers and build relationships with them,” said Saul.
TYPE has two stores located in different neighbourhoods of Toronto. The Queen Street location is in the art and design area of the city so those genres have a larger section, while the Forest Hill location carries more literary titles. This fall, Saul’s reading picks include Bring Up The Bodies (Harper Collins) a sequel to Hilary Mantel’s Man-Booker winner Wolf Hall and J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel The Casual Vacancy.
TYPE uses a monthly newsletter to connect with customers on its blog mailing list to tell them about what’s going on in-store and off-site, including new releases, book title and events. Type is happy to seek it out and custom order books for customers as well.
So what are you waiting for? Stop by TYPE and find your next great read while sitting on a comfy leather mushroom stool or dancing in the aisles. Nothing beats the experience of book pages turning as you journey into a story’s unknown place or character. Life is about experiences, so make them worthwhile. TYPE connects you with the experience of buying books in an environment, which believes and actively supports its community and those that are passionate about books and literacy.
One of TYPE’s regular customers asked if he could make a video in the store. He created the stop-motion video, The Joy of Books. Discover the experience for yourself at TYPE: 883 Queen Street West: Open Monday-Saturday from 10a.m.–6p.m. and Sunday from 11a.m.–6p.m.