Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Special Feature! Friends of Toronto's Type Books Look Back on 10 Years of Indie Bookselling

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Type Books

It's no stretch to say that Queen West just wouldn't be Queen West without Type Books. In the indie bookstore's ten year lifespan, it has become as iconic and essential a part of Toronto's west end as Trinity Bellwoods, the park that faces the beloved little shop. There isn't a book lover in Toronto who won't rave about Type, from its perfectly curated shelves to its brilliant staff. A true community destination for readings, children's programs, and most importantly, remarkable reads, Type is the rare store that has become more than a store and evolved to be a part of Torontonians' lives.

To celebrate Type's 10th (!!!) anniversary, we're speaking to several of Type's nearest and dearest, including: Derek McCormack, author of The Well-Dressed Wound and Type bookseller; Alana Wilcox, Editorial Director of Coach House Books, Kalpna Patel, craftician and Type bookseller and the designer of Type's stunning window displays; Kyo Maclear, author of The Specific Ocean; Stephen Gregory, designer of Type's logo; and Michaela Cornell, publicist. Each one has also been a loyal Type customer from the store's first opening in 2006.

Don't miss your chance to celebrate Type's amazing longevity this Saturday, April 30, 2016 during Type's combined anniversary and Authors for Indies event, from 10:00am to 8:00pm at Type (883 Queen Street West). The event will feature 17 amazing Toronto authors in the store, sharing about and reading from their favourite books, as well as Type's friends, fans, booksellers, and supporters celebrating ten fantastic years on Queen Street.

Open Book:

What is the first time you visited Type? What were your very first impressions?

Derek McCormack:

I visited it as soon as it opened — I wanted to see what all the buzz was about. I loved the fashion books — good fashion books were hard to find back then. Maybe they still are. They're not hard to find at Type!

Alana Wilcox:

I can’t remember because it feels like Type has always been there, though of course it hasn’t. I’m sure it’s the same impression I have now: of an oasis, a perfect island someone made for us book folk.

Kalpna Patel:

I honestly can't remember the first time I visited Type. But I remember how much I admired the selection and presentation of everything inside. There were so many things I hadn't seen before, and this is after I had been selling books for several years already.

Kyo Maclear:

When it opened. [My first impressions were:] Haven. Hub. Happiness.

Michaela Cornell:

The store was an empty room that smelled of fresh cut wood and paint. The counter was being constructed and the “wallpaper” was being painted. I can remember thinking “Everyone is going to LOVE this place."

OB:

Do you have a “Type moment”? Something that happened at Type that makes you particularly happy or that you find hilarious?

DM:

I like the store at Christmastime. There's no time to think of anything but putting books in people's hands. We drink eggnog and rum while we work. When Dolly Parton's Hard-Candy Christmas comes on the stereo, everyone sings along. What's awful is when the Destiny Child's Christmas cd comes on. That cd makes me think I should go to work at Indigo.

AW:

Every trip involves a good conversation, running into a friend and finding a book I didn’t know I needed, so it’s hard to distinguish visits!

KP:

The time we had paper ice cream cones and popsicles hanging in the window, and for a month we were inundated with customers — mostly parents dragged in by their children — who thought we were an ice cream shop was pretty funny.

KM:

I have a fond memory of my husband accompanying me on guitar for TYPE’s 5th anniversary. He doesn’t play guitar. (He likes TYPE that much.)

MC:

I reached out to local authors to tell them about a new indie bookstore opening and to ask them for “welcome” messages and got a ton of great ones (still have most of them, I think).

OB:

What is it about Type that you love?

AW:

What I love about Type, other than everything: the carefully curated books, the view of the park, the fetishizable stationery and type-nerd tchotchkes, and, of course, the charming and erudite staff.

KM:

The funny-fine staff. The stellar children’s section and mushroom stools. The art books. The plotless fiction. The opportunity to drift and discover adjacencies. I found Yuri Herrera and Alejandro Zambra here — simply because they were near books I thought I was looking for.

MC:

I love the combination of great selection, the best gift items and the smart, helpful Type staff.

OB:

[To staff members Derek and Kalpna] Why did you want to work at type?

DC:

I'd been working for years at another bookstore that had at one time been a literary hub for the city. But times were changing — Type was becoming the bookstore with buzz and I wanted to be there!

KP:

I had been selling books for about 10 years at various bookstores before I started working at Type, but walking into Type felt entirely different, it made me feel excited in ways other bookstores hadn't, and I could see so many possibilities out of that little store.

OB:

What was your first day like?

DC:

It was so long ago! I do remember this: it was lovely to work in a store with a view of a park, and with so much sunlight coming in. And with so many handsome hipster boys coming in, too.

KP:

Fun! It didn't really feel like a first day at all — it was quite busy in the store the day I was supposed to get "trained" so I just had to jump in and start helping people right away. It felt totally natural and comfortable almost immediately.

OB:

What is your favourite part of working at Type?

DC:

I love ordering new books. I love getting the catalogues for the next season. You never know — you could find the book that could save your life.

KP:

Having a conversation with someone about books and helping them choose the perfect thing, and then seeing them reading it in the park across the street on my way home.

OB:

[To Type logo designer Stephen Gregory] When do you remember hearing about Type Books as an idea for the first time? What did you think?

Stephen Gregory:

I think I heard about it pretty early on — long after the heady, probably drunken moment of conception but certainly while it was still mostly…vision. Inchoate, but taking on form fast. That idea of a small, beautiful bookstore rooted deep in the neighbourhood and flowering outwards in as many ways as it could was so clear for Jo and Samara, and I don’t think anything was going to get in their way. My only real contribution back then was turning Jo down when she asked if I wanted to work at Type (An offer that was a real testament to our friendship and her belief in people’s potential. I gently suggested she might be better off with someone with actual retail experience. Preferably in a bookstore.) and joining the chorus of people nudging them from the uptown locations they were looking at and pointing them west. The rest, as they say, is history.

OB:

How did you end up being the one to design the iconic logo? What was the thought behind it?

SG:

Proximity? I’d known Jo since she was sixteen and in a girl gang that used to bully me into making them pizza once they were done doing whatever it was they did out on the mean streets of Rosedale, and years later ended up back in Toronto working with both Andi Curtis on This Magazine and with Nick Saul on The Stop’s newsletter. So I was around, and may well have been the only graphic designer she knew. The logo itself came together very quickly — a simple response to the unfussy modernist warmth that Samara wanted to project in the store. In hindsight it is a bit nostalgic (I mean, who knew the typewriter was going to be such a flash in the pan? The visual pun of the logo may be lost on the younger citizens of Type.) but that is not such a bad thing when it comes to books. I’m glad it has worked out.

OB:

[To all] Why do you think independent bookstores are important to a community? Why Type in particular?

DM:

I've worked with so many fine artists — it's a star-studded list. Indie bookstores are great places to work while you're working on other things you love — writing, making music, making art. I'm not saying that all indie bookstore are great places to work, definitely not; but when the owners care about community and the staff, bookstores become incubators for beautiful stuff. The community benefits in every way.

AW:

Type feels like the epicentre of a community — there’s always someone there I know, and the books feel like friends too. This doesn’t happen in a big, impersonal store. Type, like every good indie, knows its customers and what we need to read — it’s part of the conversation.

KP:

Reading is a very solitary activity, and increasingly so now that most of the way we engage with the written word is online. Having actual conversations with people about literature becomes harder and harder, and an indie bookstore is a natural and easy place for this to happen. I think Type is especially important because it's a positive force in an ever-changing neighbourhood; the community has gotten to know us and we've gotten to know them, it feels very friendly. That doesn't happen very often these days.

KM:

Independent bookstores help us remember our older human spirits — our readerly, browserly, chatty origins. The small bookshop is a place of thoughtful recommendation and book launching and — as TYPE so perfectly demonstrates — an irreplaceably ALIVE and FUN part of the city’s culture.

MC:

Type on Queen quickly became a destination. The people who live in Toronto are proud to send people there. It’s ours.


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