London·Video

London book store forms human chain to move inventory to new digs

In a digital age where newspapers are going under and publishers are closing their doors because traditional print media is shrinking, this family-owned book store in downtown London is expanding.

About 100 people showed up to pass boxes of books down Richmond Street to the store's new location

Colin Butler/CBC London 1:15

When Brown and Dickson Booksellers co-owners Vanessa Brown and Jason Dickson put a call out for volunteers to help move their Richmond Row bookstore down the street to a new location, they weren't sure what the response was going to be. 

"We had about a hundred people show up," Brown said. "We were surprised. We had people show up that we didn't even know."

The volunteers were friends, family, neighbours, customers, London's arts community and even total strangers. They all formed a human chain down Richmond Street on an unusually-cold April Monday morning, passing books from the old location to the store's new location.

"It was pretty amazing," Brown said.  

The 'real deal' 

Brown and Dickson Booksellers enlisted the help of about 100 people who formed a human chain, passing boxes of books and supplies from the store's former location to its new location at 567 Richmond Street. (Heather McEachern-Tarasick/Facebook)

Amazing, because in a digital age where traditional print media is shrinking, where newspapers are going under and publishers are closing their doors, this family-owned bookstore in downtown London is not only thriving, it's expanding. 

"They're definitely the real deal," said Andrew Weiss, one of dozens of customers who came out to help Brown and Dickson move their books and supplies from one location to another. 

"They live and breathe this stuff," he said. "They're both writers, they're very invested in local history. You can't fake it. People know when you're faking it." 

It's that sense of authenticity that keeps customers coming back for more, especially in an age where it's all too easy to have books show up at your door with a couple clicks of a mouse. 

'Better than an algorithm'

Vanessa Brown of Brown and Dickson Booksellers carries one of the last remaining boxes of books from the store's former location on Richmond Street. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Jason Dickson said he believes the customers who come into their shop visit because they're after something different than the mall or even Amazon.  

"A great deal of our customers are between 20 and 40. Their lives are saturated with digital media. Books offer a required unplugging," he said. "My sense is the more digital the world becomes the more successful places like this will be too."

Brown believes what keeps their customers coming back is developing relationships, through community events, public lectures, or just the act of setting something special aside.

"People will come in and ask 'hey I really like this author, what would you recommend," she said. "It's better than an algorithm.

'One ink business to another'

The new location for Brown and Dickson Booksellers is here, sandwiched between Prince Albert's Diner (left) and the Grow and Bloom Co flower shop (right). (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Dickson characterizes the new space as "one ink business to another." That's because it's located inside the former Red Door tattoo parlour, sandwiched between Prince Albert's Diner to the south and florist Grow and Bloom Co. to the north. 

The new larger space will allow Brown and Dickson to carry a larger inventory and expand their community events, such as lectures, author signings and more. 

It also means the couple will be able to continue doing what has made them so successful: bringing people together and creating a sense of community for those who love the written word. 

"Local businesses, we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the neighbourhood that surrounds us, so we need to do stuff for them," Dickson said. "The downside is, we now have to help 100 people move."

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca

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