When you open a new bookshop in Toronto on Bay Street, shouldn’t you get your Globe profile in the Business pages instead of the Arts? If there’s such a thing as a cult of celebrity around booksellers in Toronto, I would say Ben McNally is the Brad Pitt of that world. A nice guy who runs good looking stores. When Ben left Nicholas Hoare on Front, there was an audible gasp from the book-buying public of Toronto which was met by McNally with a meaningful twinkle of the eye. Now you know why.
It might never be a good time to open an independent bookstore, but there might never be a better time to open an independent bookstore in Toronto than right now.
Despite Indigo’s ubiquity and the undisputed reign of online retail, a handful of small, idiosyncratic shops have opened – and flourished – in the past couple of years. Type, perhaps the city’s most charming bookstore, is already a fixture in Trinity Bellwoods. The eccentric second-hand store The Monkey’s Paw is a destination on Dundas West. The Winnipeg-based McNally Robinson is scheduled to open its first Ontario location, in Don Mills, in 2008. Book City’s Frans Donker, who recently handed over the reins to his eldest son, has hinted at further expansion of his indie chain. And Ben McNally, the long-time manager of Front Street’s Nicholas Hoare Books, is unveiling his own eponymous store this week in the heart of the financial district.
I encourage every Toronto Ninja to go down to Ben’s place and class up the joint with your smelly patchuli Birks and/or smelly black Docs. Oh, and buy something.