Owners of iconic Church St bookstore This Ain’t the Rosedale Library announced this month that the store is moving to Kensington Market. The move signals a change of direction for the store, to a smaller size with shorter business hours. Coowner Dan Bazuin, who first opened the store with Charlie Huisken on Queen St E nearly 30 years ago, talks about how it feels to be moving after two decades in Toronto’s gay village.
“What you ended up with was the ACT UP sort of things going on, the politically charged days of AIDS activism,” Bazuin says of the area soon after they arrived. “We’re very political activist people so we just fit that like hand in glove.” In fact, when the first queer Pride parade took place on Church, Bazuin says the store provided the power for the stage.
Now Bazuin is retiring from the day-to-day running of the store to pursue his art career full-time, with Huisken’s son Jesse stepping in to fill his shoes. The pair had been considering a change of location for three years before the spot in Kensington opened up. “We were so undercapitalized we couldn’t make ends meet,” says Bazuin, citing the decline of the US dollar among the contributing factors. Several parties expressed interest in buying the store but none of those offers panned out. “All of a sudden, various things came together and fell apart at the same time… this place in Kensington opened up and Jesse said, ‘If it’s in Kensington, I’d like to be part of it.’ And it was a whole new picture that worked for everybody.”
This willingness to be swept along by chance has been part of This Ain’t from the start, down to the store’s distinctive name. “I was living in Chicago and Charlie said, ‘I had a dream and in the dream I had a bookstore called This Ain’t the Rosedale Library, and I think I’m gonna do it.’ A year later it was done.”
Some 25 years on the future of the space is uncertain, although longrunning gay bookstore Glad Day, currently situated nearby on Yonge St, is considering a move to Church. Manager Prodan Nedev says they are interested but that the move might not be financially viable. “It’s lots to think about,” he says. “We haven’t ruled anything out at this point.”
Despite the blow to Church St that the absence of an indie bookstore might bring, Bazuin suggests that recent shifts in the community are not necessarily for the worse.
“People say that people are nesting now and not coming out to Church St and I say, ‘Good for them.’ If people can find a little happiness after all the struggles, more power to them I think.”