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culture

Nicholas Hoare Closing This Spring, After 42 Years

One of Toronto's greatest book lovers, Nicholas Hoare, is retiring.

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Everyone who loves to read has a favourite place to browse for books. For some it’s the local library branch, for some it’s a second hand store with that old book smell, and for many of us in Toronto, it’s Nicholas Hoare. Located on Front Street right by St. Lawrence Market, it has been one of the cosiest places in Toronto to hang out and read for many years.

On Wednesday, Nicholas Hoare announced that the Toronto shop—the last of the ones that bear his name (Ottawa and Montreal locations closed over the past year) will be closing up for good on April 1.


As in many good bookstores (though not as many as there used to be in Toronto), at Nicholas Hoare you can curl up on a couch for hours undisturbed, walk out with an armful of new discoveries or just make mental note of an art book that is way, way more than you can hope to afford. Most distinctively, Nicholas Hoare is the single best example of the tremendous and increasingly rare service provided by intelligent, imaginative book buyers. A store’s fingerprint is the particular mix of books that go on its shelves, and Nicholas Hoare’s are the most interesting in Toronto.

Like every good bookshop, there are also some quirky details. When you arrive a sign asks you to leave your things at the front cash, at which point whoever is working at the desk will pull out a pair of faded playing cards: one for you as a kind of parcel check ticket, and one that gets clothespinned to your stuff. And though that might sound all too precious, it isn’t—just a homey way to let people explore.

But the lease is up, and the 70-year-old Hoare has decided to mark that occasion “with an orderly run-off, the sale of his trademark fixtures, and a full-time move to his 350-acre estate in Nova Scotia.” He doesn’t intend to slow down, however. Once he’s made the move “Plans include a fledgling vineyard; revamping the garden; and pure book porn: the construction of an 18,000-volume library from scratch.” They also include his book review blog, which Hoare intends to keep updated. The farewell note continues: “On behalf of our entire staff, therefore, a 12-gun salute to our many customers, old and new. It’s been a privilege to serve you; we’re profoundly grateful; and we wish you and your reading well.”

On behalf of a great many readers in Toronto, we wish the same to you.


CORRECTION: Though the first Nicholas Hoare shop opened 42 years ago, it was not the location in Toronto as we first reported. Our apologies for the confusion.

Comments

  • Pk

    I was a Nicholas Hoare staff member for a short while and I recall after Mr Hoare’s semi-annual visits, we’d treat ourselves to a chocolate cake from the local bakery for having survived his short temper and mean-spiritidness. The nasty letter he’d leave behind listing our shortcomings and his general disappointment with the state of the shop was enough to warrant a second slice of cake.

    Enjoy retirement, asshole.

    • http://twitter.com/candleflame3 PlantinMoretus

      The whole vibe of the store was so pretentious, it comes as no surprise to hear that he is an asshole. I looked at his blog – seriously, a smoking jacket? Ugh. Good riddance.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Curry’s on Queen used to do that bags-at-the-counter-here’s-a-card thing too, but I think they stopped when they moved farther west.

  • http://twitter.com/userxyyyz Jan N

    Born and lived my entire life in this city and in 40 years never heard of this store nor know where it is. Very weird but then after reading his bio on the store’s front page link above, it kind of makes sense.

  • http://twitter.com/wklis W. K. Lis

    Reading books? Why read books on scrolls when we can read the engraving writings on our walls at my cave home.

    • dsmithhfx

      Because you might learn something?

  • DavidC

    OK, I never worked there but from one customer’s point of view it was a WONDERFUL store where one went in to buy one book and, because of the layout and displays, left with several on related topics (or not). Yes, if one wants a hard-copy book one can still buy one at Chapters but it’s like a factory and it’s far easier to buy online but I will miss Nicholas Hoare

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      You know there are book stores other than Chapters/Indigo, right?

  • Pier Tulle

    Hopefully a different type of Hoare house moves into this building’s new vacancy; preferably one of ill repute.

    • dsmithhfx

      Perhaps Mammo will table your proposition in Council.

  • http://www.facebook.com/debraj.joseph Debra Joseph

    This was a beautiful place with Original Canadian Paintings on the wall..the very last of real neighbourhood Bookstores where you had to check your bags. Will miss this treasure.

  • http://twitter.com/JaquesRyder Jaques Ryder

    I rarely travel East of Yonge street but i miss many of Toronto’s independent bookstores. There was a time you could travel mcCaul to Peter Streets from Queen Street to King Street and there was dozens of new and used bookstores lost to gentrification. Then there was the unique places like Bakka, Britnells, Pages, Monster Records, Jamie Fraser, to name a few that just have not had anything fill the void. Yet this place is getting the memorial treatment?