There is something magical about the bookstore in the 200 block of Main Street.
Indispensable in the city center for 40 years, the bookstore is part of the fabric and the uniqueness of the city center.
With 5,000 square feet of floor-to-ceiling books and movies, this makes it the largest independent bookstore in Canada, right here in Penticton.
Every corner is filled with books as far as the eye can see. The bookstore is a destination for any book lover.
In fact, people have been known to base their vacations on a visit to the bookstore.
But visitors from out of town were not allowed to visit and even locals’ foot traffic was down this winter, said Lisette Stevenson who works with her mother Pam and brother Tavis at the store.
The founder of The Book Shop, Bruce Stevenson, passed away in 2019.
It prided itself on being the bookstore of choice in its hometown.
In fact, before the pandemic, the bookstore managed enough volume to employ six full-time staff as well as student aid during the busy summer months.
The Stevensons are a little worried about what the future holds for small businesses like theirs as the pandemic continues. No large influx of tourists, no traffic in the Saturday markets, the loss of some regulars who are not doing their shopping at the moment.
“At the same time last year, we had voluntarily closed. When we reopened, we saw a drop in the number of inbound customers. Some of our older clients were uncomfortable visiting and some are immunocompromised.
It’s something every small business knows, she added.
The new paid parking on Main Street was a double whammy.
“People don’t want to put $ 2 in the meter to buy a $ 5 book,” she said.
During the winter months, the bookstore welcomed visitors for conventions, bridge and hockey tournaments. But of course, none of that happened this year.
“We try to be optimistic like everyone else. When vaccinations increase, we hope that our regulars and visitors will return. “
The largest independent bookstore in Canada
The store offers curbside pickup. But just like the old-fashioned notion of books, the bookstore doesn’t have a fancy website or online ordering system, and they’re not on social media.
“Just give us a call and we’ll know if we have the book you want,” Lisette said.
And with tens of thousands of books in store, there’s a good chance they’ve got what you’re looking for. From novelties to classics through obscure and history, they have it all.
They also have a great kids section with everything from Harry Potter to classic fairy tales.
Mysterious iron burn in the carpet
“We cannot claim the story of this burn. We believe there was a dry cleaning and seamstress company here in this building before us, ”she said. The building is over 100 years old, which matches the age of some of their books.
“It’s a good thing to think about… the historical lineage of a book. Who wrote it, who owned it. We have a few rare signed copies of books, some quite unique inscriptions, ”she said.
The beginnings of the bookstore
The bookstore exists thanks to Lisette and Tavis’ father Bruce, who returned to his hometown with a dream and a car full of books.
In 1974 Bruce opened the first bookstore on Martin St.
This was before the Internet and when encyclopedias were still the main source of information.
The Stevensons moved to the 200 block of Main in the 1980s, where the store is today.
Bruce was an avid reader and also a huge fan of foreign films, amassing an incredible collection of international films on VHS and DVD which are still around today. You can also rent new movies for $ 3 for three days.
“It’s on an honor system. If you have late fees, you are putting money in the pot for the SPCA, ”Lisette said.
Tavis credits his father with his love of books and movies for making the bookstore what it is today.
“My father was instrumental in creating this huge collection of foreign books and films. My mom is playing a huge role in organizing all of this, ”he said.
Storefront art and huge book fresco in the alley
Visitors are first drawn to the whimsical woodworking art that sits above the bookstore.
The 3D art, which has become such an iconic part of Main Street, was actually created by Tavis Stevenson.
“I made the carts look like wood, but they actually aren’t,” Tavis said.
Now the sparrows call the backs of the carts home, coming every year to nest and raise their young, he said.
Tavis is also responsible for Penticton’s largest and most colorful mural, located in the alley behind the bookstore.
“My friend Darren and I painted this mural over 20 years ago with latex paint. I can’t believe the colors have held up after all this time, ”he said. “It has been vandalized from time to time. A car even fell into the wall once.
The bookstore mural has a book and animal theme, with an owl standing on a stack of books and a cat stretching out on books. In addition, there is a boy sitting reading attentively and a girl who finds a quiet place under the stairs to read.
The mural was actually supposed to span the old Tim Horton’s, but the cafe’s head office has changed its mind, he said.
Today, the mural is one of Penticton’s most beloved, as is the bookstore on which it is painted.
The bookstore at 242 Main Street is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.