Shop Talk: Blue Heron Books in the indie bookstore spotlight

BlueHeronBooks-533.jpg Independent bookstores are more than just a place to buy books.

With that in mind, CBC Books is proud to feature some of Canada's best-loved bookstores in Shop Talk, our monthly profile of indie booksellers across the country as nominated by you.

This month, we turn the spotlight on Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, Ontario. Here's a sample of what you had to say about what makes Blue Heron Books so special:

"The owner Shelley Macbeth is dedicated, passionate, knowledgeable, fun, creative and she is the most amazing woman ever. She holds community events for book launches and she supports Canadian authors like me. You should highlight her store as a model for the ideal independent bookstore."
- Sue Kenney

"Blue Heron Books all the way — Shelley is brilliant and for years has been a fabulous resource for readers and for writers. I love how she connects the two — generous and funny and supportive. Whoo Hoo! for Blue Heron Books!"
- Ruth E. Walker

"From the moment you walk in the store, you feel at home. It's like your own personal library. There are always new treasures to be found."
- Dale Long

The support for this bookseller was truly overwhelming. So CBC Books got in touch with Blue Heron Books owner Shelley Macbeth to ask her a few questions.

HeronOut-250.jpgQ: What's the history of Blue Heron Books?

A: Blue Heron Books opened for business 21 years ago, in November 1989. Its customer base was built on a commitment to service and knowledge. In time the store established itself as an integral part of the community; the hub of all things literary and cultural. Blue Heron then spread its wings to cover the needs of the various school boards in the area and of late, events big and small have become an exciting part of the store's offerings to the local community and the literary community at large.

Q: What makes Blue Heron Books an exceptional bookstore?

A: The thing that sets something apart in any area of life is passion. When you walk into a bookstore if you don't sense the personality or passion of the proprietor, then it may as well be a box store.

Our passion, like any bookseller worth their salt, is connecting books and readers and writers. As an independent in a small community it is easy to become friends with your customers — know their likes and dislikes and those of their children, and in some cases their children's children! We cater to the more than 27 book clubs in town and enjoy an enthusiastic book debate over the counter at any time. Our staff members know their books and go the extra mile when it comes to service.

Q: How do you reach out to your community?

We have a "go big or go home" attitude to events which is reflected in the nature and calibre of events we either initiate or participate in. Our Harry Potter event, for instance, drew thousands to the downtown and involved business, service groups, the heritage train, and council members — even the mayor was Dumbledore! We have hosted famous authors (Timothy Findley, Yann Martel, Douglas Coupland, etc., etc.) and launched first-time authors. We planned an entire town-wide weekend around the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables. It was a lovely tie-in since the township was home to Lucy Maud Montgomery for many years. And like many independent retailers we give back to the community — we act as ticket agent for community events, get involved in issues and support the arts.

Q: What's the best thing about your job? What made you want to be a bookseller?

A: I guess it all goes back to the passion. If you love books, being surrounded by them all day is blissful. Every time the Can-Par driver walks through the door it's like Christmas...opening those boxes and seeing the NEW!! books is magic. And then there is the act of actually reading the books — that's good. And finally, there is connecting the reader with the book and, even better, the author. That's the icing on the cake.

Q: What do you think the future looks like for independent bookstores?

A: I am excited and challenged by the changes facing booksellers; how we re-invent ourselves for this new age of bookselling is very important. Being creative and willing to change are both vital attributes for the bookseller of the future. We will need to create new opportunities, find fresh markets and novel ways of being part of the changing technology. Bring it on!


To find out more about Blue Heron Books, visit their website.

As always, CBC Books is looking for more great independent bookstores from across the country. Nominate your favourite in the comments below and tell us why it deserves to be highlighted! We're proud to feature one store every month.

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