At a table just inside the door of Bring and Buy Books in Esquimalt, Jack Romphf is perched in the same seat he takes every day to visit his friend and owner of the shop, Ray Kennedy.
He occasionally leaves with a book, but mostly he comes to chat with Kennedy and watch through the world go by through the window at 1241 Esquimalt Rd.
“I’m in this store once a day,” Romphf said. “This is where all the problems of the world are solved.”
At the end of May, he’ll have to find a new place to sit, as Kennedy is closing Bring and Buy, the used bookstore he has owned and operated since 1999.
The building – rife with asbestos and in need of much work to be brought up to code – sat on the market for six years, never entertaining a solid offer. Kennedy even had a buyer lined up for the business, as he started to think about retiring. On the day he decided to sell, the Township came knocking to say they’d purchased the land and would demolish the building.
“I was going to buy it and run it the exact same way for another 10 years,” said Cliff Worth, adding for the community’s less fortunate, Bring and Buy is a place where they can still get a DVD for $2 or a book to own, instead of borrowing from the library.
The 73-year-old building at the corner of Esquimalt Road and Park Place has a long history of serving the Township. A flower shop has operated there, as well as a hardware store, a grocery store and a consignment clothing retailer. There was even a gas station on the site at one time.
For now, it will turn into an interim parking lot. After that the site’s future remains unclear.
Mayor Barb Desjardins said preparation of the lot across Park Place behind the town hall – the future site of the Esquimalt town centre – removed close to 40 parking stalls.
“We have heard from residents the difficulty in getting both to the library as well as to town hall because of the lack of parking,” she said. “So until the parkades and the Esquimalt Town Square are done, that will continue to be a challenge.”
The old building has residential units on the second floor, and Desjardins confirmed the tenants there will be displaced, in a community already dealing with an affordable housing shortage.
Romphf said the used bookstore, run by a new owner, should be grandfathered back in when retail units are developed, but he doesn’t believe that fits the Township’s vision.“This community needs this kind of bookstore.”
In 2017, a new owner purchased The Donair Shop, a 30-year-old business at 1243 Esquimalt Rd. previously run by the Dunahee family. Kennedy said the new owner bought with the understanding he had at least a year to operate there, but now, after closing at this location, he’s considering going mobile and turning The Donair Shop into a food truck.
An employee next door at Crow’s Nest (1237-1239 Esquimalt Rd.), a second-hand furniture for the past five years, said they’re just taking it “day by day.” Though she wasn’t sure what the owner has planned, the employee has heard rumblings through the community.
“A lot of people are pissed,” she said, pointing out that business is thriving. “We wouldn’t still be here without the community [shopping here].”