Earlier this month, Toronto's TYPE Books was named Magazines Canada's Retailer of the Year for 2014. It's just the latest success for this nearly decade-old shop that only seems to be getting better and better with time. They're a beautiful and inspiring space, as well as an excellent books retailer, home to community events, and creator of window displays that are the stuff of legend. Oh, and they've been a film set—twice.
We were lucky to have a chat with TYPE owner Joanne Saul to learn more about the shop and how the magic happens.
49th Shelf: I remember my first visit to TYPE Books in 2006—the damask wallpaper made a huge impression. (I also remember celebrating your first birthday with a cake shaped like a typewriter—did that really happen?) What has changed since the store opened? What has stayed the same?
Joanne Saul: It did happen! That was quite a cake. We started TYPE with a mandate to root ourselves deeply in the communities that we service. This hasn't changed (neither has the damask wallpaper!). In fact, we've been able to grow our community by having an online and social media presence that allows people anywhere to experience the magic of the bookstore. Our goal is to communicate the special collection of books, the unique and talented staff, and the range of events and programs that TYPE has to offer.
49th Shelf: You've been a film set at least twice—for Anything Can Happen at a Magazine Stand and The Joy of Books. Were you sought out for these productions? What about your space lends itself to these kinds of happenings?
JS: We were lucky to be sought out for both projects. The creator of The Joy of Books happened to be one of our regular customers and we got to talking one day. Chris Chambers from Mags Canada approached us for the other project. We were delighted to participate. TYPE has a special vibe about it. It's a little bit old world with a dash of funk and quirk. It's a beautiful old space that is warm and welcoming and it somehow just lends itself to magic.
49th Shelf: You're not just a retailer—you're a community arts hub. How did you go about making this happen? What kinds of connections did you foster? What events lend themselves well to your space?
JS: It's what we always set out to do. I believe it's what every independent bookstore should and must be. For example, early on we realized that we wanted strong links with our neighbourhood schools, so we decided to host the incredible joy-of-reading program, Word Play. We also befriended a retired local school teacher and she has been running a story time program in our basement for years. For a number of years our basement space was also an art gallery where we hosted shows by a range of local artists. We have strong relationships with publishers both big and small and we love to host readings, launches and book clubs here. We want our space to feel vibrant and relevant. These kinds of programs and events make the store come alive.
49th Shelf: How did your relationship with Kalpna Patel come about, and her iconic window displays? Which have been your favourites?
JS: Kalpna has worked at TYPE as a bookseller for many years. She began by informally working on our windows years ago. It soon became evident that this was a huge calling card for us. Her talent is immense. Couple that with her grounding in bookselling and it was a match made in heaven. I love everything she does. Our current window is a masterpiece. I've also loved some of her collaborative projects, like the one with Michael Cho and her window for the Anthology of Rap. Brilliant.
49th Shelf: Can you name a few Canadian titles that you'd insist always be in stock?
JS: Anything by our amazingly talented staff, including books by Derek McCormack, Kyle Buckley, and Serah Marie McMahon.
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