History In Pages

History In Pages

May 15, 2020

Hi Readers!

We are hoping you are all doing well and making the best of the current situation. Be sure to make time for some self-care. Reading a good book (or newsletter!) is a good way to relax and soothe an overworked and overworried mind. 

It seems every day there are more developments happening and we are looking forward to the day when our construction will be back on track. 

We can't wait to be open!!

Have you wondered why we are a bookSHOP instead of a bookSTORE? Here's how it happened...




 “History is a symphony of echoes heard and unheard. It is a poem with events as verses”

Charles Angoff

When I decided that I wanted to open a bookstore I followed a formula that I have used successfully with almost every new business venture. I did research and I looked for best practices.

Ben McNally's Books on Bay Street in Toronto is one of North America’s best independent bookstores and definitely a best practice.  Since it was only a couple blocks from my office at Air Canada Centre I wandered down to it on many a lunch hour to browse its books. During those visits I got to know Ben McNally who owns, what many say, is the most beautiful book store in Toronto. In Ben’s store I studied his display cases, how he organized his shelving and I asked him questions on how to deal with publishers. I also asked him how he chose the titles he carried? His answer?  “I listen to my customers”.  On most of those visits I did not have a particular book in mind. I simply looked for a book that seemed interesting. Ben described my behaviour very well : “On the internet you can find what you are looking for; in our store you can find what you are not looking for”. 

One of the books I was not looking for was Bookshops - a Reader’s History by Jorge Carrion. I found Carrion’s story very compelling and it dramatically changed our marketing approach.  

“Every bookshop is a condensed version of the world. It is not a flight path, but rather the corridor between book-shelves that unites your country and its language with vast regions that speak other languages”. 

Carrion’s book got me thinking that we should call our bookstore a "bookshop". We liked that bookshops had history and that they went as far back as the early sixteenth century. We also liked that it imparted a sense of authenticity and a point of difference versus most bookstores. Hence we chose the name River Bookshop. 

But as I learned in marketing a brand should always fit its “place”. When we first started looking for an Amherstburg location there were few good ones to be found. Out of desperation we almost made a mistake and signed a lease for a new store. Luckily 67 Richmond became available and we jumped at it. We liked that the store was built in 1885 and is part of the town’s historic roots. We knew that the years hadn’t always been kind to the store. Therefore we  knew it needed lots of work. It was also important to restore it to how it looked 135 years ago. In other words we wanted an historic location that matched our River Bookshop name. 

That historic journey is what is happening right now. 

As I said in a recent post we are restoring the exterior and creating an interior that is “Victorian new and now”. 

Stay tuned for the rest of our story. It's a page turner. 

Richard, Book Seller 

Note: other books I read as part of my research were The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell and 18 Bookshops by Anne Scott.  All three books will be in our bookshop for your reading enjoyment.