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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.

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/candleflame3 PlantinMoretus

    I think it’s a stretch to connect the closing of the bookstore with the sexual assaults at Bloor & Christie.

    • Anonymous

      Try reading the last sentence again.

      • http://twitter.com/candleflame3 PlantinMoretus

        Yeah, so?

  • http://joeclark.org/weblogs/ Joe Clark

    “[T]he market” did not show “indifference.” At least Moreno understands the structural issues affecting the economy of the book market. Essentially, this is a cheap shot at capitalism levelled by a writer who was actually in the market savaged for its indifference. How many books did Korducki buy there? (Answer: It matters little, because one customer cannot offset macroeconomic trends.)

    A bookstore doesn’t have anything to do with rape. I wish Korducki could stay on topic.

  • Tim

    That article was fine, until the last line.

    First, linking the closing of a bookstore to sexual assault is lazy journalism.

    Secondly: “the indifference of the market”? The market for that bookstore was explicitly WOMEN. The only way a woman’s book store can remain a woman’s bookstore is if women shop there. Blaming the un-gendered, impersonal “market” is dishonest.

    You would have had a much stronger finish to an otherwise honest article had you dropped the sexual assault link and recognized that it was the indifference of women that caused this store to close.

    • L

      Men can shop at a woman’s bookstore too! The name just indicates a particular niche of literature that is of interest to many men, women, and everyone else.

    • James

      I don’t think the author was linking the closing of the bookstore to sexual assault. I believe the author was rather pointing out that under current circumstances in the neighbourhood while women would most appreciate ‘a safe space for women to educate and organize themselves’ it would not longer be available.

  • phuck mohammed

    Imagine a dry-cleaner named Toronto Men’s Cleaners. Would many women drop off their cocktail dresses? I’m not saying there’s no money in feminist literature – although there probably isn’t. Perhaps this business’s problems started in its discriminatory name?

    • Proud Torontonian

      Discriminatory Name? Are you serious?… The moment a business, club or organization chooses to declare itself other than the the assumed dominant cultural face, it is deemed discriminatory. Are you so insecure that you need everything to reflect your identity to feel safe accepted and wanted. Here is a basic lesson for you: the reason that women and other groups feel the need to create their own spaces is because people like yourself are incapable of seeing outside of your own needs and values. As a result women authors and those who write material important to women do not not find this work on so called “inclusive” retailers. Please wake up and examine your tired, simplistic navel gazing version of life. Your are blessed to live in one of the most mixed societies in the world. Try and enjoy it rather than being confused by it.

      • Anonymous

        Amazon.ca has over 20,000 titles with the word “feminism” in their Books category; even Indigo has about 1,000. Which “so called ‘inclusive’ retailer” are you talking about?

        If this store really did only exist as an outlet for “women authors and those who write material important to women” to push their products, rather than to serve a need in the market, there’s no wonder it tanked.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, the mildly provocative final sentence in this article seems to have generated a disproportionately harsh response. I wasn’t a customer but I’m sorry to see just about any store catering to a niche go out of business.

  • Lucas

    Wow, I really did not think there would be so many people reading this with such a poor grasp of language. The author is not claiming that the book store is closing because of the assaults or that the assaults are happening because the book store is closing. The author is simply expressing a felt sorrow at the closing of a space which sought to fight against the subordination and objectification of women, while at the same time these things are manifested so appallingly close by, demonstrating the vary need of the book store.

  • KenB

    It’s official. Sexism is over.