Historic Edmonton bookstore to close after 98 years

Ukrainian Bookstore will close its doors for good in December

The Ukrainian Bookstore was a fixture in city since 1914

Elena Scharabun serves a customer at the Ukrainian Bookstore on Tuesday. The Edmonton store is closing in December after 98 years in business. (CBC)

After 98 years Edmonton's Ukrainian Bookstore will close its doors for good in December.

"This is a store that I grew up in," said Elena Scharabun, the third generation of her family to own and manage the store.

"My grandfather took it over from the two brothers that started it...and my father and mother took it over from him, and it's been in the family for the whole 98 years."

The store not only sells Ukrainian-language books to local people, but also had a thriving mail order business, and supplied books to libraries world-wide. The store also sells Ukrainian music and gifts.

But in recent years there's been less demand.

"The world's changing," she said, adding that today's immigrants want to learn English and assimilate into Canadian society, buying different things and decorating their homes differently.

The opening of trade and travel with Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union means the Ukrainian Bookstore has lots of competition. For example, Ukrainian music is now just a mouse-click away.

Scharabun says libraries have less money to spend on foreign-language books, and even local dance and cultural groups that once bought costumes from the Ukrainian Bookstore can now order them online, direct from Ukraine.

Scharabun plans to take a bit of time off after she closes the store in December.

"I've been working here full-time for over 35 years and it's time for a break," she said. Despite that, she says closing the Ukrainian Bookstore after nearly a century will be hard.

"We grew up here...we're gonna be sad.... we'll miss the place and all the friends we've made in the store, both in Edmonton and world-wide."

Scharabun plans to stay involved with Ukrainian cultural organizations, including the Ukrainian Museum and Archives which is opening on Jasper Avenue near 95th Street.