The last remaining Book Warehouse location in Vancouver is no longer closing for good after receiving new owners.
This week another Metro Vancouver bookstore company, Black Bond Books, finalized purchase of the original and last Book Warehouse location at 632 West Broadway. While it will still close for renovations and to prepare for the new owners on May 26, it will have a grand reopening on June 1. New co-owner Cathy Jesson said they aren’t changing the name.
Sharman King, the current co-owner and founder of Book Warehouse, which once had several locations, originally thought he was going to have to close the last 32-year-old flagship store when he retired at 65 this year. He says the sale is a relief.
"It's a responsibility that I don't have to worry about anymore. A bookstore is part of the cultural mosaic of the city and it would have been a shame for it to go away," King said.
As for the new owners, they’re local too. Black Bond was started in 1963 by Madeleine Neill and has 11 locations throughout the Lower Mainland, but none in Vancouver. Jesson bought the business from Neill, who was her mother.
The Jessons are confident that despite troubles in the bookstore industry—the city lost 52-year-old Duthie Books in 2010—they can continue making a profit due to their experience and success in the industry.
"We've been at it a very long time. We have 11 other locations so it kind of fits in with us," said Cathy Jesson. She added that her daughter will be managing the new store, and is vibrating with excitement at the idea of having a shop in Vancouver to run.
Margaret Reynolds is the executive director of the Association of Book Publishers of BC, a trade association that aims to expand awareness of the value of books in people’s lives. She said that keeping Book Warehouse is, no question, a positive thing.
“We were all really disappointed when the chain closed because there’s been a number of bookstores that have closed over the years,” she said. “It’s just getting more and more difficult for publishers to find places for their books.”
Reynolds explained that while it’s a difficult time for local bookstores, ones that focus on a particular niche still tend to thrive. For Book Warehouse, she attributed their success to their business model, based on discounting.
Jesson said that not much will change with the new ownership, including the discounts.
"That was why we bought it. It's run very well for 32 years. All we want to do is be able to live up to what customers have been experiencing."
As for King, he says retirement will be a lot easier now that he knows the store will be looked after.
"We're just so happy that we found a really competent and motivated purchaser. They really know what they're doing," King said.
"I think this is the best possible outcome for book buyers in Vancouver and for the book industry in Vancouver and in B.C."
This story has been corrected since it was first published May 22. Cathy Jesson did not inherit Black Bond Books from her mother, she purchased it.