August Shop of the Month
For the last 10 years, TYPE Books has been championing unique books from their storefront on Queen Street West in Toronto. Now operating from two shops, the independant retailer is our August Shop of the Month. Get to know the story behind one of Toronto’s top shop and help us celebrate their monumental anniversary.
When did it all start?
It all started a decade ago: TYPE is currently celebrating its tenth year of bookselling.
Why did you decide to open the store?
A decade ago, Joanne Saul and Samara Walbohm—the co-owners of the bookstore—were academics and professors of literature in Toronto. While they loved research and teaching, they longed to bring the books they loved to a bigger community and to build a place where academics and artists and writers and readers could commune. So they started TYPE Books and it's been a bustling concern ever since.
How would you describe the neighborhood in which the store is located?
TYPE has two stores in two different neighborhoods. The first store—the store that started a decade ago—is on Queen Street West. Back then, the neighborhood was a calm enclave full of studios: artists’ studios, fashion designers’ studios, architecture and design studios. And families—there have always been a lot of families: the store's across the street from Trinity-Bellwoods, one of Toronto’s biggest and most beautiful parks, which is surrounded by residential streets. The neighborhood has gotten busier and busier: condos are booming, and the park has become a magnet for people from across the city. The second store, which is in Forest Hill, opened up in 2008. Forest Hill Village has the feel of small town’s Main Street: it's very local and very community-minded. The customers know the staff and the other customers too.
In terms of other books and merchandise, what do you offer customers?
TYPE has personality: customers come because big chain stores don't have the charm that we have! We carry titles and publishers that bigger stores cannot or will not carry. We look for the books at the back of publishers’ catalogues and the offbeat titles that might not seem commercial. The curious, the esoteric, the overlooked—this is TYPE’s specialty. Which is not to say that we don't carry hit books, because we do! But we want customers to discover books they’d never heard about before. The staff is key in finding the books we offer. All the booksellers have a say in what we carry, so the shelves are full of books that we're passionate about. We don’t worry if our books are commercial; we worry if they’re excellent.
What are your favorite Gestalten books?
What are your customers’ favorite Gestalten books?
TYPE customers love Gestalten’s map books. Mind the Map is a huge hit for us, as is A Map of the World—customers love being taken across the world, and to imaginary worlds, and nobody does it better than Gestalten.
What kinds of people shop at TYPE? Who might be seen visiting the store?
TYPE has the greatest customers—a blend of locals and people passing through town, a blend of artists and authors and actors and designers and professors and kids with their parents—everybody’s here!
Do you do anything at your store besides sell books? Do you, for example, have any events or exhibitions there?
TYPE hosts readings and discussions all through the year. We host them in our stores—the Queen Street store has event seating for fifty—and we do them offsite. The Queen Street store also host two after-school educational programs for kids. During the school year, volunteers and teacher candidates set up shop in our basement and offer lessons in writing and reading to kids from local schools. The kids get help with homework, but they also get creative: they make zines and books and movies.
TYPE also has a permanent presence at Scrap Metal, an art foundation started by Samara Walbohm and Joe Shlesinger. Scrap Metal shows art by an array of Canadian and international artists -- the current installation is by Abraham Cruzvillegas, and there have been shows recently by Ryan Gander, Paul P., and Hazel Meyer. The gallery also collaborates on events with the Toronto International Film Festival and the Images Festival. TYPE has a small bookstore in the gallery—ScrapBooks, we call it—that carries titles hand-chosen by the artist whose work is on display.
Is there anything else about the store that you'd like us to mention?
TYPE is so pleased to be on Queen Street West, a block where independent stores are thriving. Between the park and the stores that surround us, it’s the place to be.
Images © Lisa Kannakko and Serah-Marie McMahon