Conserving the fading notion of classic book stores. Joanne Saul and Samara Walbohm began with an art gallery in the basement and a bookstore above it
In the year of 2006 when two friends while completing their PHD in Canadian Literature from the University of Toronto noticed the shift in times that were changing with businesses like Big Box store and Amazon. They made a decision to conserve the fading notion of classic book stores by opening one in the heart of Toronto on Queen Street West. Co-owners Joanne Saul and Samara Walbohm began this idea with an art gallery in the basement with the bookstore above it. The Art gallery was run by Walbohm and Saul was the buying manager for the store. It is a reflection of the surroundings and the culture of Toronto. Growing up Saul was intrigued by the Victorian Novels of authors such as Gieroge Eliot, Charles Dicken, Anna Historia, Maggie Nelson and Diam Brand along with classic literature books.
Coming from a family of writers and academics, she grew up in an environment of creative expression. The bookstore of a thousand square-meter space was not sufficient with the attention it received and the collaborations they wanted to introduce. In 2008 Type books had a branch inaugurated in the Junction at Dundas Street West and in 2018 a branch in Forest Hill on Spadina Road. The branches did not imitate each other. Saul says, «my mother who was a teacher for fifty years worked with York university. She told me that the point in the existence of the literary world is to have a community to exchange ideas, knowledge and wisdom with experiences which made me see our work in perspectives. We partnered with schools for an education platform called ‘Word Play’ which down the road partnered with York university where the respective teachers have been running it since. We conjugate and immerse ourselves with the culture and practices». The store on Queen Street West is in proximity to Trinity Bellwood park. It is an area along which independent businesses flock. «The view of the park from the store was a deciding factor and we had to take it. Vogue has called it ‘One of the best neighborhoods in the world’. It has changed and continues to. Our rents are proof of it» Sharing the credit, «The bookstore exists because of our team who are experts of their genres. We have people who have worked with us since the beginning and the ones who are working on a part-time basis. The duties are divided with attention to the person who exuberates passion towards their craft. Our sales representatives who have known us since we started, understand our demands and diversity in clientele. In sixteen years of collaborative works, Type Books consists of people and staff who have woven into the fabric of the business and the idea through which we run. Our staff, which we empower by handing over duties, empowers us in return. It is an effort powered by curiosity to work towards the goal, to grow. We do not compare ourselves to companies».
Type Books keep stationery items, games, puzzles and candles with an inventory curated for readers, providing for their needs and requirements of the reader and the neighborhood. The visitors purchase birthday cards and attend the signing of authors. Joanna says, «you would not see books in the store that do not sell. Our team had made a rule- a book that was ordered over two times had to be placed on our shelves and a book which did not sell within the span of six to nine months would be returned». They have had signings from writers like Margaret Atwood, Sheela Chari, Ben Lerner and her father who has written over two dozen books on South African politics. «Canadian publishers help us to bring forward Canadian writers and acknowledge their talents. We gear the minds that deserve to be recognized. With the changes that the world is enduring due to Covid-19, the literary world plays a role in silencing and invoking for the spirits who are lost. Being a diverse city and nation, we suffer with what goes in the society, with the ‘Black lives matter’ overwhelming the world, there was an influx of questions. We promoted writers of color and those that were marginalized and had racial representation. The indigenous were being shunned and misrepresented. They were being ripped off their rights, having their land, religion and spirituality stolen, and being forced into residential areas and schools with regulations. We are responsible to provide the public with knowledge and awareness, the changes begin with us, this issue is not a Canadian or social issue, it is about humanity and the evolution of mankind. We want to serve what remains true of connections and belonging in a communal hub», she mentions.
They were featured in the online directory of an entrepreneur showing concern for independent businesses which made them extend online. «We had to expand and learn from the failures as an opportunity to find our capabilities. When we began online selling, we were taken aback by the number of orders that were made. We curated an online commerce with specifications which made our online space retain our touch even virtually. With the help of workers like Nick Rubi, who is a designer, and manages a part of our buying and Kalpana Patel who has been managing our store, we requested Jane Mount, who works for supporting business like ours and had featured us in one of her books, to collaborate and use her art work and design for our website’s structure. In March of 2020 we had the idea and by June we began running. Margret Atwood ordered the ‘mystery bag’ in which we give four to five books from our selections. People demand our events, we do online book reading on Tuesday’s, but what is done in stores cannot be replaced».IMAGE GALLERY
883 Queen St W