Merry Christmas from Parry Sound Books
On Saturday the 3rd of December 1988, just in time for the Christmas season, we opened the doors to Parry Sound Books for the first time. This community welcomed us and strongly supported our business that first day and has continued to do so over the past 23 years.
We opened Parry Sound Books as a small shop in our home and a few years later moved into the newly renovated William Beatty Building where we have remained.
When I realized that Saturday 3 December was again approaching, along with the Christmas season, I thought about that day in 1988 and the years since.
There have been huge changes in the world – and in the world of publishing and bookselling. We opened without a computer – we had invested in Books in Print, a set of immense volumes, published annually, listing all current publications. I laughed the other day at a bookstore in Toronto to see some ancient editions of these books holding up a sagging self – as outdated as the horse and carriage. Now, of course, we have a computerized inventory and point-of-sale system, and an internet-based program to look up information about all books.
Parry Sound Books has not itself changed that much. The stock of course has changed as new books are published, and others are no longer popular enough to stock. Although bookseller friends laugh at me for some of the titles I do still keep on the shelves, I could not, in good conscience, have a shop that did not stock at least a few books by Virginia Woolf, Sinclair Ross, Margaret Laurence – you get the drift – even if I only sell one copy every year or so. I believe that is what makes the difference between a bookshop and a shop that sells books – and between a bookseller and someone who just sells books.
When we opened we were the only bookshop in Parry Sound. We are still the only bookshop selling new books but the bookselling world has changed around us. Books are now sold by drug stores and discount stores in our own community – and of course by on-line booksellers everywhere. These changes have had a dramatic effect on all booksellers, over the past year especially, and many wonder what we must do to survive as a viable business in the new reality of bookselling.
I believe that there is nothing that replaces the bookstore experience, and that we must continue to focus on what made us successful in the beginning. A great selection of good books for children and adults, books that have been carefully selected by an experienced bookseller, books that can be confidently recommended to our customers, and books that we are certain you will want to read. If there are books our customers are looking for that we don’t have, we are more than happy to order that book and provide it to them - quick and easy! I believe that customer service is understanding what a customer wants and doing our very best to provide it, with a please and thank you. We have banned the expression “no problem” at Parry Sound Books - of course it is no problem, it is our job! Our staff members are not just sales clerks, they are booksellers, people who read, read, read and know their stuff. We’ve had a lot of staff over the years, some were teenagers who didn’t know, before they worked here while still in high school and university, that they would go on to make careers in publishing. There are others who re-entered the work force part time after having children and stayed on for years and years. More recently we’ve had school teachers working part time during the school holidays bringing with them their knowledge and customer service skills developed during years of working with both students and parents.
What strikes me most about the passage of time, apart from my own undeniable aging, is the aging of my customers. Children who went to kindergarten with my own children, now return as confident young people. Many of them with children of their own who seem to grow at a rapid rate; some of these children now as old as their parents were when I first met them. That is the life affirming passage of time, but there is also the sadder passage of time as older people die, and I read an obituary, or notice that I no longer see some of the familiar faces coming into the store or attending an author reading. This is what being part of a community is all about. I grew up moving to a new town every few years, and I have now lived in Parry Sound for more years than in any place else, it has become home, it is my community.
It has been a privilege to be your community bookstore for the past 23 years, and we look forward to many more. As our world becomes more and more electronic and digital we hope that you will continue to appreciate the value of a bound book.
Please visit us on Saturday 3 December and let us thank you for your support over all these years. The store is decorated for Christmas, and fully stocked with the best books of the season, we’ll help you choose just the right book for everyone on your list. We will have some sweet treats, free gift wrapping as always, and a special gift for you to thank you for continuing to shop at Parry Sound Books.