Monday, June 27, 2011

Mom-and-pop bookshop brainstorms way to stay solvent

Kate, Drew and little Emma Grace Lorimer can be found hard at work at Tall Tales Books in Victoria. Chad Hipolito photograph for The Globe and Mail.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
June 27, 2011


See Kate. See Kate work.

See Drew. See Drew work.

Work, Kate, work. Work, Drew, work.

See Kate and Drew work in a children’s bookstore.

See Kate and Drew work to keep the Big Bad Wolf from the door.

See Kate and Drew try to earn a modest living while operating a bright, kid-friendly book emporium.

Funny, funny Kate and Drew.

The couple had a dream. Open a bookstore. Stock up on 2,000 of the best titles. Encourage parents to read to their children.

The creation of Tall Tales Books is a fairy tale whose final chapter might be written in the coming days.

The proprietors opened the doors at 795 Fort St. in Victoria 22 months ago. Kate, 31, and Drew, 33, have since learned some lessons.

They have learned E is for E-books.

They have learned O is for Online Ordering.

They have learned R is for Recession.

They have learned the Canadian dollar, which not so long ago seemed as valuable as Monopoly script, is now worth more than the greenback.

Monthly sales have been up and down, up and down like a yo-yo.

Worst of all, the economy went into the potty.

So, the couple brainstormed for a way to keep their bricks-and-mortar bookshop solvent. A book-of-the-month club? Too restricting for the clientele. Donations? Nah. They’re a business, not a charity.

Kate and Drew Lorimer settled on what they call the Tall Tales Books Hero Society. They are soliciting subscribers who promise to make monthly payments — as little as $10 per month — in exchange for merchandise at the store.

“It’s win-win,” Mr. Lorimer said. “We get a regular, guaranteed income and all the money goes towards a purchase in the store.”

The couple seek 400 subscribers by Canada Day. They signed up the 60th subscriber last Wednesday, hit 88 on Friday morning, soon after passing the century mark. The store was busy on Saturday, which happened to be Save Bookstores Day!, an online initiative by customers in Canada and the United States to support local independents. By Sunday morning, they had 115.

“We’ve got a hill to climb,” Mr. Lorimer said. “But the response from the community, the outpouring of support, has been amazing. We’re cautiously optimistic.”

They met while working at the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. (Sometimes, love really is a high-wire act.) They married four years ago, then moved to Victoria. These days, they are sometimes joined in the store by Emma Grace Lorimer, who turns three next week. Tall Tales is a mom-and-pop operation.

The store has wide aisles for strollers, change tables in the washroom, and low-to-the-floor tables for toddlers. It also plays host to regular readings, often featuring Shoshana Litman of the Victoria Storytellers’ Guild.

As they struggle to stay open, a bedtime book for children currently tops the bestseller’s list. However, the Lorimers will not be stocking a volume in which the rhyming scheme includes a popular if vulgar Anglo-Saxonism. It is rendered on the cover as Go the F**k to Sleep.

“We appreciate the sentiment and we laugh at it,” Mr. Lorimer said. “But it doesn’t fit in with who we are.”

Mr. Lorimer’s favourite book to read to his daughter is Nick Bland’s The Very Cranky Bear, in which a lion, moose, sheep, and zebra unwittingly disturb a hibernating bruin. It is more family friendly to read about a bear of foul disposition, rather than to bare foul language.

SNAPSHOT IN SEPIA: Tony Bohanan, the Liverpudlian who established Tony’s Old Time Portrait Studio in Victoria in 1970, has been named posthumously to the hall of fame of the Antique and Amusement Photographers International. Bohanan shot locals and tourists in period costumes with topical backdrops at his shop on Broughton Street until his death last year, aged 78.


Kurt said...

as a father of four little mischievous children, the art and work of Kate and Drew which in my opinion is outstanding and they just make a good couple, even though Drew needs to buy Viagra Online without prescription, but that can happen to everybody even to me, so who am I to judge him?

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