Hitting the Books on the Danforth
Photo by Val Dodge/Torontoist.
Christopher Sheedy, owner of the used bookstore Re: Reading, opening tomorrow on the Danforth, describes the excitement exhibited by many locals as he’s been bringing his spacious shop together during the last six weeks. “The other night I was standing outside taking a break, a car pulled up and two little girls got out of the back seat, probably ages five and seven, turned to their mother and said, ‘Look, Mom, the store’s almost done!'”
The demand for a used bookstore along this stretch of the Danforth—right in the middle of Greektown at Carlaw Avenue—is made obvious by the number of people who stop and gaze into the window of the not-yet-open store. Some of them point at books on display while others cup their hands around their eyes as they press their faces against the glass, peering deep into the store. All of them smile. Workers, including a woman who walked in off the street and volunteered to help, are still unboxing and sorting books for Saturday’s opening. Asked why she’d offer to stock shelves at a complete stranger’s store, she replied, “There are no strangers in bookstores.” Re: Reading seems to have captured the best spirit of the Danforth before it’s even opened.
Danforth stalwart Book City all but had the strip to itself until TYPE and Circus moved into the neighbourhood last year. Sheedy sees all of them as complements to his own shop, not competition. “What I would like to see happen five years from now is that Danforth have the reputation that Queen West used to have: I’m looking for books, that’s where I’m going to go. If a used book store opened right across the street, I think that would be a great thing.” He characterizes Re: Reading’s inventory as “general everything,” but admits that the romance section is more extensive than he thought it would be. “People have sort of pooh-poohed that, but Harlequin sells 400 million copies a year, so I don’t mind.”
Generous seating area at Re: Reading.
Re: Reading avoids the cramped, musty feel of many used bookstores, opting instead for a spacious lounging area at the front of the store and two wide aisles stretching to the back of the store. The high ceiling and dark hardwood floor complete the look for a store that says comfy and elegant without feeling crowded or formal.
Sheedy, who’s wanted to open his own store since he moved to Toronto twenty-three years ago (the store’s bookmarks claim that it was established “in Dreams, 1986”), is venturing into self-employment for the first time. Why would anyone leave a comfortable career to open his first retail store in this economy? There’s risk in any venture, but Sheedy’s comfortable with his chances, confident that he has the right location and product to bring in customers. Besides, he says, “I might not get rich, but I might get happy.”
Re: Reading is located at 548 Danforth Avenue at Carlaw. The grand opening is Saturday April 4, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.