Illustration by Roxanne Ignatius/Torontoist.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
This year has been cruel to independent booksellers, and for much of 2010, it looked as though the Toronto Women’s Bookstore was doomed to the same bleak fate as its comrade in biblio-cool, This Ain’t the Rosedale Library, which closed its doors in July. After a desperate community request for support in December 2009 was followed by a “so close, but so far away” update in February, it seemed as though the store might be gone for good when it closed “for renovations” in May.
But, as it turned out, the renovation notice wasn’t a stall. The TWB had been sold, and its new owner—former staffer Victoria Moreno—came equipped with visions of reinvention and repair, including the addition of an in-store cafe (with Wi-Fi!), a nice outdoor garden space with seating, a revamped website to increase online sales, and the establishment of community-building social nights and customer purchase tracking to aid in personalized recommendations. Under its new management, the former not-for-profit would also start operations as a traditional for-profit business.
The store reopened in August with little fanfare and some trepidation, noticeably less stock, and decidedly fewer staff. Still, despite the obvious modifications, Moreno has stuck to her guns and continues the store’s commitment to providing anti-oppression and feminist literature and a typically packed roster of book launches and community events. Said Moreno to Xtra in June: “I want to keep this space as what everybody has known.”
The Toronto Women’s Bookstore isn’t completely in the clear; times are still tough for indie bookmongers, and unless Indigo and Amazon decide to take a hike, things aren’t likely to improve any time soon. It’s the TWB’s perseverance, in light of this stark reality, that makes its survival such a remarkable victory. For having the gumption and guts to tweak the institution’s operations after thirty-six years of business and, most critically, for never giving up on itself or the strength of its community, we tip our hats to this Harbord haven and its heroic new leader.