Old Books Get a New Home
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Old Books Get a New Home

A new antiquarian and collectables bookshop finds its place on College Street.

Sellers & Newel, 672 College Street.

As the final chapter is written on a trilogy of Toronto indie bookstores, it may not seem like the time is right to launch yet another one. But after just three months of plotting, Peter Sellers and David Newel have done just that. As of this fall, Sellers & Newel Second-Hand Books, a shop that specializes in collectable and antiquarian books, including a number of first editions, became the newest old bookstore on the (College Street) block.

“If we’d listened to everyone who said we shouldn’t do this, we’d have a different story to tell,” says Sellers (who is the father of Torontoist writer Daniel Sellers). “But we believe that it’s possible to succeed at anything. Even at the height of the Great Depression businesses continued to hire.”

Optimistic though they are, the owners went into the business with both eyes open, fully recognizing the challenges ahead. Paying homage to the hurdles booksellers face is a coffin-turned-bookshelf along the east wall of the store.

"The Coffin"

“It serves as a reminder of what will happen if we are not smart, not careful, and not lucky—and not necessarily in that order,” Sellers explains.

Besides the coffin—which, by the way, houses the kind of vampire and horror-themed books that you’d expect to see in a coffin—the rest of the store isn’t as quirky as one might expect from an antiquarian bookseller.

The shop, nestled between Grace and Beatrice on Little Italy’s College Street strip, is bright. The shelves are neat, and save for the unusual angles of the wall, it’s a pretty standard-looking place. You’d probably not guess that the interior decoration is made up of re-purposed items that both men already owned, or that most of the renovation was thanks to the (free!) helping hands of friends, which is one of the reasons why overhead costs have stayed low.

Peter Sellers (left) and David Newel (right)

Another key reason the business has been able to get off the ground and, as Sellers says, “pay the bills,” is the selection of books both men have brought to the partnership. As a result of their blended private collections, more than 40,000 titles are available, either from the store itself, or from the owners’ various storage facilities. There are books about the heady Mad Men days of advertising (Sellers has worked in advertising for most of his career), arts, film, sports, geography, natural history, and military history. They also sell comics (and books about the history of comics, natch), poetry, modern literature, and vintage paperbacks, as well as a mixed array of things described as “intriguing, charming, or just plain odd.” Had they been forced to build up stock like this by paying suppliers, it would likely not have made for a viable business.

While the store is worth a visit, both for the knowledgeable owners and for the chance to peek at books you’re not likely to find at the local big-box, there’s also a website that allows customers to browse from home.