Bookstore packed with Canadian authors

By JT McVeigh, The Enterprise-Bulletin

Rina Barone of Simcoe Street Books has a huge line up of special guests to the grand opening of the new Collingwood book store November 17.

J.T. MCVEIGH/ENTERPRISE-BULLETIN Rina Barone of Simcoe Street Books has a huge line up of special guests to the grand opening of the new Collingwood book store November 17.

COLLINGWOOD – In a time of digital press, smart phones, tablets and e-readers, the idea of a neighbourhood book shop is getting harder and harder to fathom.

The closing in Collingwood of The Crows Nest recently left just two used book dealers in a town that, for culture, seems to have its finger on the creative pulse of the area.

Rina Barone and her husband have picked up the baton, expanding for their Creemore store, the Curiosity House, by opening Simcoe Street Books at the corner of Ste. Marie and Simcoe streets in Collingwood. They will be celebrating the store’s grand opening Nov. 17.

Opening just a couple of weeks ago, the new shop seems to a hit a nerve with hidden reading in public.

“The support that we have gotten from the community so far has been great. They want to see a bookstore here survive and they want to help as well,” said Rina Barone.

Coming up from Toronto a few years ago to take over the Curiosity House showed Barone that there was still a real thirst for the tactile experience of cracking open a good book.

And what the readers are looking for is as much as challenge as there are people and interests.

“A lot of people come in and say ‘I need a good read, give me a good read.’ That’s sort of how it always starts the conversation. And then it goes to ‘do you want fiction or non-fiction?’ Some people want the escapism, so we direct them in that direction, and then you have the more serious hard-hitting issues and those do really well as well. We are just starting to learn what the demographic is here and who are customers because we are still really new,” said Barone. “But at the Curiosity House we have different groups and there is quite the literary set so we try to stock the books, we have our literary fiction section, which is predominantly Canadian.”

As the profile of Canadian literature grows, thanks to productions such as CBC’s Canada Reads program, people seems to gravitating to newspaper’s book sections.

“People follow trends, the book sections from the Toronto papers and the New York Times book section, people come in on the weekend looking for those titles, literally with the pages of the section in their hands,” said Barone. “I find that people will read about the book on the weekend and then come in to buy the books.”

Not everyone can get what they are looking for.

Barone remembers when Canadian performer Gord Downie died there was a lot of interest in his The Secret Path book, but also remembered that he had published a book of poetry a few years ago.

“Downie published a book of poetry about 15 years called Coke Machine Glow,” recalled Barone, “Also, he was at the New Farm in Creemore doing a concert just before. We had that book in stock because people wanted it because people were talking about Downie and we have to keep up with trends,” remembers Barone.

“But now someone wanted to place two orders for that book and it is like $300 and I can’t find it anywhere because it is not being printed. It is out of stock with the publisher and any copies that are living out there people are trying to sell for top dollar. So…”

For the grand opening of Simcoe Street Books Barone has a special evening planning with visits from several popular writers: Claire Cameron, Dan Needles, Cecily Ross, The New Farm ‘s Brent Preston, Antanas Sileika, Kelly Siskind, Karen Smythe, photographer Mark Zelinski, Tish Cohen, Pat Raible and Simon Heath. Chef Wolfman will be preparing some samples from his new cookbook, and they just confirmed award-winning author and Toronto poet laureate Anne Michaels.

“This store is a little bit different than Creemore,” said Barone. “We have an art gallery in Creemore, but we don’t have the space here but we will have a few hangings for local artists. So we are trying to have an eclectic esthetic here.”

The festivities begin at 5 p.m Nov. 17. 

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