The Granville Book Company, a Vancouver institution since 1986, closed its doors for the last time July 6. Two nails in the independent bookstore's coffin were hammered at the same time. First, the City of Vancouver delivered a new property-tax-assessment notice of $12,000 for 2004. Second, landlord D. Bonnis & Sons announced an increase in rent.
"Our lease was due to come up in February, and we were confident we were going to make it-before we got the [tax-assessment] letter," Rod Clarke, one of the store's five owner-employees, told the Straight. The other owners are Bob Cole, Jim Allan, Rebecca Turner, and Terry Sakamoto.
Clarke pointed out that the area where the Granville Book Company was located has changed significantly since the early 1990s: the street was once a varied retail promenade, but now it's mostly bars. The store, at 850 Granville Street, is the latest of several shops to leave what used to be Vancouver's posh, neon-lit entertainment district. The 79-year-old Notte's Bon Ton Pastry and Confectionery, formerly the haunt of the city's ladies who lunch, moved to West Broadway in 2004. Punk clothier Cheap Thrills also said goodbye, as did the Capitol 6 theatre.
Outside pressures notwithstanding, Clarke, 44, who had worked at the store and its earlier incarnation since he was 19, said the Book Company takes some responsibility, too. "We had a 19th-century style of doing business," he explained, noting that his business didn't start selling on-line until last year. Their premier book section, computers, suffered because people stopped buying computer books a few years ago, according to Clarke.
Bob Cole, whose career in books started when he stole a volume of Plato from his hometown bookstore in North Carolina, said he wants to thank the store's customers for their support. "We saw this coming, but we didn't see it coming as suddenly as it did," he told the Straight. "It's sad, very sad, to not say goodbye to people formally."
Cole is gathering investors for a more ambitious bookstore project, which will include a professional stage and a theme: a celebration of independent book-selling in B.C. and a motif of social justice. Interested parties should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As previously reported in the Straight [Arts Notes, March 24-30], property-tax increases are putting a growing burden on the city's struggling private arts institutions, including galleries.