Glad Day Bookshop is betting on the Village to survive.
It has been a staple of Toronto for decades, its pink-and-purple storefront and giant rainbow flag waving over Yonge. Now, thirty-five years since opening its second-floor Yonge and Wellesley location, Glad Day Bookshop is about to leave its post.
But fear not, readers of Toronto: the shop—which is both the city’s oldest bookstore, and the world’s oldest LGBTQ shop—is not closing. Instead, owner Michael Erickson tells Torontoist the company is planning a little-big move to the beating heart of the Church-Wellesley Village.
“For some people there’s a lot of nostalgia attached to the location, but the store was also always supposed to be pushing boundaries; being a part of the queer liberation and sexual liberation movement in 2016 means being wheelchair accessible,” says Erickson, lead owner at Glad Day. “That means not hiding up in the shadows, that means being on the street and that means taking up public space. I think it’s a natural transition to [be] taking up more space somewhere else, and I think that the community will follow us.”
On May 31, Glad Day sent out a survey letting book lovers know that the shop was planning a move, and asked clients to suggest new locations. The results of the survey were very clear, Erickson says: people overwhelmingly wanted Glad Day to either move to Church Street, or stay where they are.
But Yonge Street is no longer a viable option for the grassroots shop, where its current location is small and cramped, and not accessible for those with issues with mobility or disabilities.
The move is slated to happen sooner rather than later because, while each month the store loses less money, Erickson says there is a struggle to break even. He did not disclose a specific location.
And, with changing times, Erickson says that Glad Day cannot continue as just a bookstore; book sales simply are not enough to keep the business afloat. Instead, the shop will be branching out by potentially adding a coffee bar, alcohol service, or board games to its new location. The Church Street location will also offer more space, and at street-level, it will increase visibility and accessibility for clientele.
“We have to…really be a community hub that is diversity inclusive,” Erickson says. “We want everyone to feel like they can come in the shop and feel welcome.”
Part of being inclusive and welcoming is being sure that the titles on the shelves reflect the community that is buying the books. That’s what makes the shop unique: in major retailers, like second-hand bookstore BMV or Indigo, LGBTQ-themed books are given, at most, one shelf. At Glad Day, the entire store is teeming with queer reads.
“Choosing the books is about trying to be responsive to our customers. When someone comes in and suggests a book we should bring in, we usually bring it in that month and put it on the shelf,” Erickson says. “Other bookstores won’t really take chances, they won’t waste shelf space. They don’t want to take risks on what they would consider to be obscure or fringe authors and, you know, just being queer can make you fringe.”
This move to Church street is a lot to take on for one independent bookstore, but Erickson says that there is a lot of good will out there for the store, because the community realizes that Glad Day cares. Erickson said that the most successful things that Glad Day has done have not been for money, but for showing the community that it matters to run events that showcase queer and trans voices, like Naked Heart, the largest queer and trans literary voices festival.
“We don’t want to assume we have all the solutions and all the plans and we hope to create a space that is missing right now. I think Church Street is hurting for something that captures what it means to be queer and trans now,” Erickson says. Glad Day could be it.