Lack of customers forces The Bookshelf to close after 14 years

A long-standing used bookstore in Thunder Bay's south core closes its doors this week.
The Bookshelf owner Jennifer Blanchette with friend and long-time customer Kayla Harris. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

A long-standing bookstore in Thunder Bay's south core closes its doors this week.

Gerald and Jennifer Blanchette opened The Bookshelf at May and Miles streets almost 14 years ago, but with the advent of digital books and e-readers, they say the demand for print books has declined.

The store has been a fixture in the area for decades. Before her husband bought it from the previous owner, Blanchette said, the store was called the Thunder Bay Used Book Market.      

Blanchette said it's a sad time — not just for the business — but for her family.

A used bookstore on Thunder Bay's south side has reached the end of its life. The Bookshelf has been a fixture at the corner of May and Miles streets for years, but the owners say the demand for books has plummeted. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

"I have a three-year-old son, who, you know, this is his life and he's going to lose part of it,” she said.

“He loves people coming in, the kids coming in.”

The Bookshelf was also a popular hangout for young people playing a fantasy card game called Magic.

Thunder Bay resident Kayla Harris has been coming to The Bookshelf for years.

"I read everything, from ... Shakespeare, to comics, to historical fiction,” she said.

With books sold at half the cover price, the store easily feeds Harris's appetite for reading, and she said it helps her as a teacher.

"I've been able to build up my collection for my classroom library by buying books here."

Harris has also become close friends with the Blanchettes and frequently hangs out at the store. She's helping them prepare for the store's closing this week.

"It's really sad," Harris said. 

It's hard for the couple to say goodbye after all these years, but there just aren't enough customers anymore, Blanchette added.

"They've got e-readers ... they play video games ... Nobody really [is] interested in books anymore.  They want all the new gadgets."

The Bookshelf is selling off its books for $1-2 each. The store closes for good on Wednesday at 6 p.m. 


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