Sunday, February 25, 2024

Beyond the Bookstore: Pickwick Books

From gritLIT to bookcrawl, Hamilton is a city of writers and readers. Supporting this effort are numerous publishers and independent bookstores, all of which call our city home. Like the contents found within, each bookstore has its own story, and regardless of which one you pop into, you’re bound to find something unique.

Join Paige Petrovksy as she explores each of Hamilton’s independent bookstores to learn what makes it special in this Q&A series.

This month, Paige adventured to Pickwick Books to meet with the store’s newest owner.

At first glance from the outside the store may appear small, however, this second-hand bookstore that has been a staple in the Waterdown community since 1995 is anything but. Inside, readers are treated to an endless supply of pages to browse, and a local gem that is full of history, literally and figuratively – some books on the shelves date back to the 1700s.

Adding to the shop’s rich history is the different owners who have been part of Pickwick’s story. As of April, of this year, Pickwick is owned and operated by Marnie Mycroft.

Paige: How has is it been going since April?

Marnie: Oh, gosh, amazing. It’s been such a big learning curve for me not having any background in small business whatsoever. It’s a lot to take in. And there are days when I can’t really wrap my head around the fact that I am a bookstore owner now. I feel like I’m still living in a bit of an alternate universe, but the entire Waterdown community has been so welcoming – they just love this store, so they were happy someone was able to take it over and it didn’t have to go the way of the dodo.

Paige: How did you owning the store come to be?

Marnie: I’m from Burlington, and the way I had heard about Pickwick was through the pandemic when Cheryl [the shop’s previous owner] started doing her book boxes. I follow a yarn dyer from Hamilton and during the pandemic, she was getting the book boxes and she was posting about them. So, I started following Pickwick on Instagram but during COVID, I never actually made it out to visit the store. I hadn’t actually been into the store before Cheryl had posted that she was looking to sell it.

I had been working for a company for the last 15 years and I was just getting increasingly less fulfilled. I had been complaining to my book club that I needed a new job. I’d applied to a couple. I applied for a job at the Burlington Library, because I was so desperate to work with books. So, when Cheryl posted on Facebook, that she was looking for a buyer, my friend in book club, saw the post, and forwarded it to our group and was like this has your name written all over it. It was my friend Ashley, and she was like, you need to you need to go talk to her. And as soon as I walked in, I was like I could see myself doing.

Paige: It sounds like it was meant for you, right time, right place, right person. It sounds like it all just came together like it was supposed to.

Marnie: I feel like the stars aligned for sure. Cheryl’s saying was always leap and the net will appear. And I feel like that’s exactly what I did.

Paige: You briefly mentioned posting on social media, how do you decide what goes on social media and what you share?

Marnie: I have a love hate relationship with social media for sure. I know the pitfalls and the downsides to the point where I don’t even let my daughter have a phone and she’s 13. So, I do know that it’s not the best, but it’s a necessary evil for small business owners especially. So, for me, I just try to stay on top of what people are reading what I think is current. But that’s not always what everyone’s reading. Like, I’m a fiction lover so when I see new hot fiction coming in, I’m always excited. And I’m always posting about that, but I also have to remember not everyone reads fiction. So, I do have to make a conscious effort to cater to all the different genres.

“We never tire of the friendships we form with books,”

-Charles Dickens

Paige: You’re a fiction reader! What are some of your favorite books?

Marnie: It totally depends on what mood I’m in. There are days when I just want like an Emily Henry rom com, or something like that. But then there are other days when I like the dark and the mysterious type of books. Some of the best books I’ve read recently are The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne – I read it a few years ago and when I finished that book to like everyone, I know I was like, you need to read this book. It was such an awesome book set in Ireland, so it had a place near and dear to my heart – my mom is from Ireland, I lived in Dublin for a while. So, anything set in Ireland I kind of gravitate towards.

I’ve discovered Charlotte McConaughy – she’s an Australian author and wrote Migrations, and Once There Were Wolves. Migrations I read two years ago, and I absolutely loved it. And then she wrote another one about a year and a half later and I read it too. I don’t have either one of them in the store, unfortunately, but highly recommend them.

And I just finished Demon Copperhead last night, the Barbara Kingsolver one, and I really enjoyed it. I haven’t read David Copperfield, which, shame on me because I now own a store that’s based on a Dickens novel. So, I really do need to read more Dickens.

Paige: Do you find there’s a genre or type of book you sell more than others?

Marnie: It really does depend on the day. There are days when I’m only selling general fiction books but then there are days when it’s like nonfiction, like everyone’s looking for philosophy, sociology, anything spirituality, all of that stuff. When I first bought the store, there were a bunch of dictionaries and my husband came in, and he was just looking around with me, and he said, ‘who buys dictionaries?’ And I was like, I don’t know. And Cheryl was like, well, you know, they’re visual interest. And the first month I was here I sold four dictionaries.

Paige: What is the process for deciding what books you put on the shelves?

Marnie: It depends on what we have room for to be quite honest. But again, after two months, I don’t really have a great knowledge of everything that [sells yet]. New hot fiction, I’m always going to accept that, you know, classics, if someone brings me classics, I will 100% always take your classics because people are always coming in looking for them, especially like George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker. A lot of people come in looking for local history, so I do love to keep a lot of that on the shelves.

Paige: Why do you feel independent and second-hand bookstores are important to a community?

Marnie: Well, for independent, obviously, because it stays in the community, right? When you’re an independent store owner, you are, you know, you’re living in the community, you’re shopping in the community or everything is going back into your own community, which is a very important, it’s just important to keep our local economies and our local communities thriving.

In terms of used bookstores, just from a sustainability aspect. I feel like keeping books in circulation is very important, saving them from the landfill instead of buying new all the time. I am very conscious of my [environmental] footprint. I do like to make sure that I’m shopping small and buying sustainable. So, a used bookstore specifically fits into that value of mine.

I feel like a used bookstore, like there’s so much value here, you know, like you can come in, and some of our books have been read, read and reread, but some of them have been read once, they’re almost brand new. To get them at a fraction of the cost of what you would pay for them at one of the big box stores, you know, like why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you want to shop a used bookstore first?

Paige Petrovsky
Paige Petrovskyhttps://paigepetrovsky.ca
Paige Petrovsky is a Hamilton-based storyteller. She is the owner of Preserve Your Words - a biography writing service, and a writer for several online publications. When she’s not working , you can find Paige blogging, reading, or often watching one of the Harry Potter movies.

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