For a while there, it looked like the Toronto Women’s Bookstore was on the verge of closing, another casualty in the increasingly difficult war on independent booksellers.
Then, at a sale event in late May, the store announced that it had found a new owner, Victoria Moreno.
“I am really, really excited to have taken on this project,” she told the gathering at the sale, “having made the Toronto Women’s Bookstore survive. But I will still need all of your support.”
This is quite a project, indeed. In December, the bookstore put out a call for help saying that it was in crisis: sales were not supplying enough revenue and it needed donations to carry on. Two months later, another call was issued, looking for an owner or owners who could sign on by mid-April to keep the store from closing at the end of May.
“The opportunity presented itself to me,” says Moreno when asked why she chose to run an independent bookshop. “I was worried about the bookstore. I approached them when they had their fundraising event earlier this year. I thought I should get in contact to see if there was a way I could help them out…. I never thought I’d be taking it over. I just thought maybe I could help with some consulting, see if there was a way I could volunteer my time.”
She ended up putting together a proposal, and the store announced its new owner in early May.
Moreno first came to the store in the late 1980s as a relief worker.
“I was really excited about coming to work at the bookstore for various reasons,” she says. “It was a point in time when I was deciding what my sexuality was. I had moved out of my parents’ home and started university. Being here was quite a phenomenal experience.”
After leaving the store, Moreno added positions such as co-founder of English Spanish House (now Quest Language Studies) and manager of the Spanish Centre to her resumé. She left her position at the centre after five years to return to the Women’s Bookstore.
As of the sale in May, there were still some legal issues to work out, and the signing hadn’t happened yet. The store was closed for inventory during the last week of the month, and Moreno officially started work on June 1. The store will be closed until the second week in June.
So, where do things stand, financially?
“That’s a bit of a difficult question,” says Moreno. “I’m not too sure. I think the idea is that it will be at a point where it’s pretty close to zero, but we won’t know until the inventory is done.”
Because the store is not-for-profit, Moreno is not purchasing it. Rather, it’s a sale of the assets. She adds that the store’s accounting is outsourced and is currently being worked on.
Moreno has plans for the bookstore. Changes include adding a café, which should be ready by the end of June, fixing up the backyard to have a nice garden and seating, and adding new signage. She also wants to revamp the website, increase online sales and add WiFi. To build a sense of community, she’ll have social nights and track customer purchases so staff can make recommendations. She also needs to reestablish some relationships, such as gaining the confidence of university professors so they will place orders for the store to carry their course books.
An official re-launch will likely happen in late summer or early fall.
“I want to keep this space as what everybody has known,” she said at the sale.
To learn more about Toronto Women’s Bookstore, visit womensbookstore.com.