Windsor·Audio

Amazon no concern for former Raptors boss looking to open bookshop in Amherstburg

Former Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment boss Richard Peddie hopes that once his River Bookshop opens, it'll act as an investment in the community.

Richard Peddie's River Bookshop should open in June 2020

Richard Peddie is the former president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, as well as the former CEO of the Toronto Raptors. (Tom Addison/CBC)

Richard Peddie isn't overly concerned if the River Bookshop in Amherstburg doesn't generate massive profits.

Instead, the now-retired President and CEO Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment hopes that once his latest business venture opens, it'll be an investment in the community.

"I really believe that small communities need great libraries and great bookstores in this day and age," Peddie said. "I'm investing in the community, and if that costs me a little bit of money, that's fine."

Peddie also isn't worried about losing customers to giant booksellers like U.S. e-commerce giant Amazon. 

"Especially in the United States, independents are really coming back, and they're coming back here too," he said. "It's coming back and if you do the right things, I'm hoping that what we're doing is going to help bring it back."

Peddie bought a storefront at 57 Richmond Street in Amherstburg dating back to 1885, explaining that the plan is to restore the exterior to how it would look in the 19th Century. 

I probably got over 6,000 books to buy ...- Richard Peddie, Owner, River Bookshop

And on the inside, Peddie said the goal is to showcase "Victorian new and now" design. 

"It's going to be very fresh, very airy," he said. "I'm putting in a fireplace. It'll have comfortable seating, because often people don't have that. It'll have book wraps with movable ladders."

As for the books themselves, Peddie said he recently spent three days consulting with representatives from major publishers in Canada — including Penguin Random House and HarperCollins — to determine which titles he plans on keeping in stock. 

"I probably got over 6,000 books to buy, and I've only got about 2,000 of those bought so far," he said. 

Arguing that all independent bookstores are a little political by nature, Peddie said the River Bookshop will stock titles on a range of subjects.

"We'll have a selection of book on everything from climate change to racial equality," he said. "So it's going to be a very thoughtful place. It'll be some more culture for the town."

While the store likely won't open until June 2020, Peddie said he'll be announcing a new "lead book reader" next week, who will run the shop and work with staff. 

Peddie doesn't plan on shying away from the shop either. 

"We're going to be wearing aprons, and you will see me in an apron down there," he said. "I took tickets at Skydome, I picked up garbage at the Air Canada Centre. I'm very comfortable with hands-on [work]."

Listen to Richard Peddie's interview with Windsor Morning host Tony Doucette:

What does it take to make a book store successful in the Amazon age? An owner with deep pockets should help. Richard Peddie is planning to open an independent book shop in his adopted home of Amherstburg later this year. Tony talks to the retired business mogul about his labour of love. 8:24

With files from Windsor Morning

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