Vintage bookstore writing new chapter in east end

The Scribe bucks trend of closed bookstores by opening and thriving on Danforth

Inside The Scribe bookstore
The Scribe owner, Justin Wood, attends to staff while a customer browses the shelves. (Jessica Lopez/Toronto Observer) 

Some small businesses have been forced to write their final chapter over the past two years. However, the new Danforth Avenue bookstore, The Scribe, has had the opposite experience.

Filled to the brim with books — from rare editions of the 1800s to modern firsts — the quaint and cosy store has captured much attention in the area.

The location was once a spa. Justin Wood saw the vacant space, and he took the opportunity to open his bookstore.

At 36, Wood is the youngest member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Canada. He also has more than a decade of experience working with books.

“[It’s] kind of weird how it all worked out for me,” Wood said.

Even before The Scribe was open for business, Wood said it met with incredible attention from the Danforth community. He found that the age demographic also unexpectedly consisted of younger adults, including some teens. 

“It’s just very nice to see that because a lot of people have this negative connotation about bookstores,” Wood said. 

When renovating the forgotten spa into his bookstore, Wood was careful to create an intimate mood, with the white colour of the bright first floor and darker colours in the second-floor rare book room. 

Books in the Rare Room are encased. However, the cases are unlocked “to dispel the notion that rare and vintage books are untouchable,” Wood said.

Wood also attributes the success of The Scribe, compared to veteran book dealers, to his young years. 

“Seems like I hit the sweet spot in my age, as I get older, to kind of, you know, have enough money to make this work and hire people and make it a proper business — and to still jive with people in every age,” he said.

The magic between the bookshelves

It’s difficult to open any kind of bookstore these days.

Jason Rovito, a book dealer for more than a decade, said the high price of real estate makes it hard to maintain bookshops in Toronto. 

Rovito hasn’t had the opportunity to visit The Scribe in person but said running a successful bookshop requires a shop to “have a manageable rent and be located in the right neighbourhood.”

Bookshops are therapeutic spaces and should be a part of the local neighbourhood, he said.

“A city needs a number of bookshops in different communities to sort of allow the new generation of readers and collectors to form,” Rovito said. Without such stores, they don’t have the physical opportunity to fall in love with books or reading.

Wood saids it’s his responsibility to create something different and find a new generation of readers and book lovers through The Scribe. 

“You know my responsibility is to find the next generation to carry it on because physical bookstores should never die,” he said. “They’re so integral to the community.”

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Posted: Apr 1 2022 12:56 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life Business Entertainment News