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Lost Words

With news this week that three bookstores—The Book Mark, Glad Day, and Dragon Lady Comics—are to be sold or closed, we look back at some beloved bookshops from Toronto's past.

Ballenford Books. David Mirvish Books. Pages. This Ain’t The Rosedale Library. All established book stores that have closed within the past four years. With The Book Mark joining that list, Dragon Lady Comics shutting its physical store, and Glad Day Bookshop up for sale, it feels as if Toronto is experiencing a cycle of closures similar to the late 1990s.

Back then, blame initially fell upon big box stores like Chapters and Indigo; now it’s online retailers and e-books. In both cases these big bads were only part of the problem: increased rent appears to be a critical element of the current closure cycle, the exact opposite of the low-priced leases that aided the high number of bookstore openings during the 1970s. Cold commentators might say that technology is making bookstores obsolete, or that owners should only blame themselves when their business ends, but whenever any long-running store closes, it feels as if a reassuring piece of the local landscape has gone with it.

In the gallery above, a tiny sample of past bookstores that left their mark on Toronto and its readers.


  • CynthiaC.M.

    Ahhh, Britnell. Now a Starbucks, but it WAS the place that provided us BSS (Bishop Strachan School) girls with Prize Day items (well, some of them, anyway).

  • Anonymous

    “Fahrenheit 416″

    Was it just a novel or…

    • Deancollins73

      That would be 451, the temperature at which paper burns.

  • Scottd

    Well done story.

  • Torontonian

    I worked at Lichtman’s at their 112 York St. and 34 Adelaide St.W. locations
    in the 1970s. The photo above must be from an earlier era.
    Glenn Gould and Clyde Gilmour were regular patrons and I had
    many an interesting chat with them–separately of course and I think
    they both met and we had a three-way conversation.

    Regarding Times Square Books. The main location was further down
    on Yonge Street. The centre line of Edward Street would have extended
    through the centre of Time Square Books. Your photo shows the second
    store and not the flagship store. Beside the Times Square main store,
    was Cinema 2000, a porn theatre that skirted the law by showing porn
    from videotape and not film. It was open 24 hours year round.

    One more bookstore that sadly disappeared was the Children’s
    Book Store. Of course, if you like Indigo Books then fine.
    But the Children’s Book Store was much better than anything
    offered by a chain bookstore operation.

    And the This Ain’t the Rosedale Library.

    Sad situation all round, isn’t it?

  • Kennethbaker

    I miss Britnell’s. Whenever I see “You’ve Got Mail”, I think of the small bookstores. Am so glad “Mable’s Fables” is still around after all these years.

  • Anonymous

    A later addition (opened around 1982) was Writers and Co. (from which the CBC Radio programme takes its name). It first opened on Yonge Street a few doors south of Manor Road, later moving down Yonge a block or so.