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Toronto Women’s Bookstore is Closing for Good

After 39 years, the feminist bookseller is shutting its doors.

The Toronto Women's Bookstore. Image from Google Streetview.

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.

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