We are sincerely touched by the outpouring of sympathy and understanding that so many people have shown us over the last few days. It is overwhelming that such a diverse group of people all feel strongly about the books that we stock, the place that we create for them, and the way that we champion them. We offer our thanks to each one of you, and have trouble finding words to repay this kindness.
We are, however, in the disappointing position of having had our formal proposal to our landlord rejected. Our proposal to work for her to liquidate our stock was dismissed with the argument that the cost of paying security or a bailiff to observe the process would outweigh the gain. Our proposal did not include security or a bailiff’s presence during the process. Clearly we are not trusted. With no negotiation of our terms of payment available to us we have to accept that the store has no future at this location. This might seem anti-climactic, and some of our supporters may feel that there must be something else that we can do. We ask for your trust that we have, for some time now, considered all the options, and have had the support of a lawyer in formalizing them. Our only hope is to imagine that the store may reemerge in the long-term. At this point a fundraiser could only be a Pyrrhic victory. We encourage all those who have shown such enthusiasm for the store to consider helping us and stores of our kind but in the future.
While we are open to suggestions, we are hoping that our own unfortunate case might offer others the opportunity to seriously consider the factors which combine to make creating and running a bookstore such a challenge in North America. Predatory pricing of Amazon, inflated rents in urban centers, remaindering of excessive print-runs demanded by big-box stores and corporate publishing have had a devastating effect on smaller entrepreneurs. We are still of the feeling that without big changes the best and most satisfying way to support indies is to explore the stores in your city, browse their selection, trust your own curiosity, and buy gift certificates if nothing suits you.
We cannot help but feel guilty for disappointing everyone who has demonstrated their hope that we might resolve our difficulties in the short term. We invite anyone who might feel that we have breached their trust in this respect to contact us at email@example.com
Jesse & Charlie Huisken
Our situation, which could be told as a long story about the plight of bookstores in Toronto and in many North American cities, is really quite a simple one. At our new location in Kensington Market we found a space with lower rent and overheads which thus represented an enticing solution to the difficulty of inflated rents facing many stores of our kind. For a year we worked in this space happily, until the recession hit with full force and we began to fall behind with our rent. Our response to this situation was similar to that of any small retail business. We bought shrewdly, held regular events, did book tables for small press launches, conferences and author appearances, did not invest in advertising, fixtures, signage or renovations, kept only minimal staff (the store has one part-time staff person), and most importantly worked full-time or more with long store hours, while drawing the absolute minimum for our own rent and expenses. In this way we were able, albeit very gradually, to pay our back-rent, and maintain an amicable relationship with out landlord. While the space presented a number of challenges, including our basement flooding whenever there was heavy rain, and though we heard many stories of rent reductions in our own neighborhood we were not offered this option, but continued none-the-less to enjoy working at the store and feel inspired by our customers’ enthusiasm for the books that we were selling. Quite suddenly this changed. Our landlord became impatient with the rate at which we were able to pay her and made demands for large repayments, without providing a precise accounting of what was owing. In light of our workload and the proliferation of other causes in this city, a fundraiser remained only an idea. Instead we responded to these unrealistic demands with an informal proposal which would not have been profitable to us, but to our landlord. We received only further demands which we attempted to meet within our resources until the locks were changed on Friday June 19th. We are once again offering our landlord a choice which would be beneficial to her and allow us to re-open our doors, and are hoping that the outpouring of encouragement from the public might influence our situation. Along with this we are seeking help with organizing a fundraiser, and we are accepting PayPal donations. As we were living day-to-day, as many small business owners do for years after opening or relocating, our own livelihood has been erased, and our present situation is very uncertain. None-the-less we have seen that many people value what we do and are eager to help us, and thus remain hopeful that a resolution is around the corner.
Jesse & Charlie Huisken
Brian Joseph Davis is the author of Portable Altamont (Coach House Books) and I, Tania, (ECW) as well as a DJ, artist, curator and Blocks Recording Club participant.
Betty Burke is the new musical/literary endeavor by Maggie MacDonald and friends Shaun Brodie, Holly Andruchuk, and Stephanie Markowitz. Maggie is the author of Kill The Robot (McGilligan Books) and The Rat King, member of The Hidden Cameras, and formerly of Republic of Safety & The Barcelona Pavilion. Singer/guitarist Holly Andruchuk is known for her band with the Brothers Elliot, and the Buffalo Builders. Stephanie Markowitz is a filmmaker who directed and produced ‘The Rat King.’ Finally, Shaun Brodie is the busiest musician among us, playing with AC Newman, The Hidden Cameras, Hayden, Veda Hille, Duplex, and many more. Wednesday April 29th, 8pm. Event is FREE and in the store.