Fredericton's Westminster Books begins a fresh chapter under new ownership
Legacy of long-time indie bookstore in the downtown will be honoured, owners say
After 44 years, Westminster Books in Fredericton is turning a page.
The former owner of the oldest independent bookstore in the province has retired, but the store will remain, now under the name Westminster Bookmark.
Janet North handed over the keys to its new owners last week. She said it was important to her for the bookstore to continue.
"I think every city should have an independent bookstore. And a lot of the people that actually were looking to buy it felt the same way," North said.
The new owners, Dan and Marlene MacDonald, own the Bookmark stores in Charlottetown and Halifax.
Dan MacDonald told CBC News that they weren't actively looking to buy the bookstore until North approached them to see if they were interested.
"That's kind of where it all started," he said.
"We didn't want the store to close. We thought, you know, that we should continue to be an independent bookstore in Fredericton, to serve the people of Fredericton."
One thing that is new to the location is an online presence where people can view the availability of books before going into shop.
MacDonald said at the Charlottetown store, he had a customer who said he did all of his browsing on the store's website before coming in to do his Christmas shopping, so he knew what was available before going in.
Susanne Alexander, the publisher at Goose Lane Editions, an independent book press based in Fredericton, said Westminster had the advantage of being around a long time and were a well-established a presence within the community.
She said independent bookstores are important because "you have a store that is deeply interested in its customers."
"You have people there who not only sell books, but they order the books, they read the books ... so that you have a very personal kind of service when you go to a store such as that."
Alexander said when her son was little and they would go to Westminster, he would receive that personal attention.
Norine McGinn, one of the booksellers, would say to her son, "Take a book, sit down, read the first couple of pages, you know, and this is a way that you can actually find out what book you want to read."
Alexander said McGinn would give him a stack of books "that he would then thumb through and decide which one he wanted. So ... he would develop the taste for reading."
Alexander says indie bookstores know their customers and what to recommend.
North said that was the case for Westminster, and she would often find herself at a sales conference, see a book and think, 'Oh, that's for so-and-so.'"
It is the same for the MacDonalds at their other Bookmark locations. Each store is different, tailored to the local community.
"We're not trying to create something that's homogenous. We recognize the strength in the store as being unique to their community," said Dan MacDonald.
When they first bought the Bookmark in 2014, the original owner and founder had died unexpectedly, he said, and the family was looking for someone to carry on and build upon his legacy.
So they bought the store with that intent.
Now, MacDonald said they plan to do the same for Westminster Bookmark.
"Janet North has a legacy here in Fredericton. We want to honour that legacy."
With files from Information Morning Fredericton