After 39 years, the feminist bookseller is shutting its doors.
Earlier this afternoon, Toronto Women’s Bookstore owner Victoria Moreno announced on the shop’s website that the nearly 40-year-old South Annex institution would be shuttering for good on November 30. While the announcement may not have come as a surprise to those who still frequented the red brick building on Harbord often enough to observe its dwindling crowds, it was nevertheless a blow.
The feminist, anti-oppression bookshop and community hub first showed signs of financial hardship in late 2009. At the end of that year, the then-nonprofit bookstore’s board voted to keep the desperately cash-strapped shop open, at the same time pleading with the outside community for help. The store needed $40,000 to stay open for another three months; it didn’t get that money, but it persisted.
Less than a year later, the bookstore closed and—truimphantly—reopened three months later under Moreno’s ownership and with a new for-profit business model, to the relief of its devotees. But Moreno’s adjustments, which included the addition of an in-store cafe, were ultimately unable to pull the struggling business out of its quagmire.
Moreno writes, in her announcement on the store’s website:
The fact is book markets have changed radically in the past few years. Ebooks, fierce online competition and a stagnant economy have all contributed to our business model becoming no longer sustainable. I’m closing the bookstore with the bittersweet knowledge that I did my best. I gave everything I had; physically, emotionally, and financially. I’ve learned a great deal about every aspect of the business and I have no regrets.
Moreno doesn’t have regrets, but other members of the surrounding community might. Now, a single kilometre east of the site where the latest in a high-profile string of sexual assaults was reported just two nights ago, a safe space for women to educate and organize themselves can’t survive because of the market’s indifference.