“If your first year is your worst year, we should be fine,” says Christopher Sheedy, owner of Re: Reading (548 Danforth Ave.). Celebrating their “paper” anniversary this coming Easter weekend, the sizeable used book shop has become a community icon for more than just its selection of collectibles, first-editions, DVDs and soft covers.
Thanks to neighbourhood spirit, Re: Reading has entrenched itself in the essence of Toronto as a whole, amassing critical praise (including NOW magazine’s critics’ pick best bookstore) and supportive word-of-mouth many proprietors only dream of.
“The community has been extraordinarily supportive. Everyone’s pleased that there’s a used bookstore here,” Sheedy beams, noting how denizens enjoy Re: Reading for a number of reasons: As a point of purchase, a place to discuss/enjoy the written word during downtime as well as the inevitable pride developed when seeing their own fellowship flourish.
Returning the favour, Re: Reading regularly participates in or donates to local schools, youth groups and community programs however possible, confirming Sheedy’s sentiment that the shop’s greatest accomplishment is its positive impact — both personally and around the constituency.
“I work to live, not live to work. I still do that even though this is my business,” he asserts.
“Working for someone else, having a day that I came home and didn’t complain was a surprise.
The plan was to open (a book shop) when we retired but my wife prompted me to try it now.
Since opening in April (2009), I might have had one bad day out of 365. That’s my biggest success and everyone in my life comments how I’m much happier.”
Encountering the soft lighting, comfortable seating and dark wood floors that set Re: Reading’s ambience, one can see why Sheedy is content. His boutique is far from another mousey shop crammed with mouldy, dog-eared copies of long-forgotten text. Crisp and bright, organized yet welcoming, it emotes a sense of living rooms and conversation as opposed to dust and register receipts.
Still, Sheedy seems oblivious that his own presence contributes to Re: Reading’s success, preferring to animatedly illustrate store features: Aisles allowing access for double-wide strollers, a reading area and a clean, mild atmosphere that continuously generates praise.
“I have a passion for what I do which I guess fills the air with good vibes. I’m glad they’re happy though. I wanted (the store) to be comfortable so I designed a place for myself and a by-product of that is how it translates into customers.”
Thanks to much research and an inherent adoration for literature, there have been no major hurdles or lessons in prompting his fledgling bookstore to fly.
“(Seeing as I enjoy) standing around talking about books with people all day, I guess I really started a few steps down the path.”