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Oak Bay bookstore set to celebrate 60 years

Ivy’s Bookshop is in the heart of Oak Bay
Ivy’s Bookshop’s owner Megan Scott is celebrating 60 years of being a part of Oak Bay’s community. (Tim Collins/Contributed)

By Tim Collins

There’s a celebration planned at Ivy’s Bookshop, the iconic neighbourhood bookstore located in the heart of Oak Bay.

The delightful shop has been providing an unique and varied selection of books for since 1964, and on Saturday, June 1, they’ll be celebrating with giveaways, cupcakes, a colouring contest for the kids and free book bags for the first 60 customers through the door.

There’ll also be the chance to win bags of books and the staff will be giving away free mystery gifts with every book purchase.

That all sounds great, but it begs the question of what it is about Ivy’s Bookshop that makes it so special?

In part, the enduring nature of the bookshop can be traced to the person who started it all, Ivy Mickelson.

A woman of electric tastes, Mickelson read C.S. Lewis, Henry Miller, E.B. White, Allan Watts, Thomas Merton, Krishnamurti, C.G. Jung and Herman Hesse. In short, she was a voracious reader and a lifelong book lover.

The breadth of her reading allowed for some heated discussions between Ivy and her customers – discussions that motivated students, professors and others to flock back to the bookshop for another round of discourse.

That legacy was inherited by the bookshop’s current owner, Megan Scott, when she bought the store back in 2001, and it’s one that she’s carried on through her own love of books and wide-ranging consumption of the written word.

“There’s something magical about books. It’s the possibility that behind every spine there’s a whole new world to discover,” said Scott, who developed her love of books and bookstores as a child and later a young woman who first visited and later worked at the iconic Munro’s Books. “My parents were friends with Jim and Alice (Munro) and that’s where my love of books started. Jim taught me everything I know about book selling.”

Asked about the challenges facing independent bookstores in an age of chain stores and Amazon, Scott paused for only a moment before responding.

“We’ve survived all that, and it all comes down to a wonderful customer base that loves books and bookstores. We have customers that come in every day,” Scott said.

That observation was echoed by Teig Masterton, one of Ivy’s Bookstores staff.

“It’s a community. We have customers who, if they don’t come in for a while, we start to worry,” she said.

Her fellow staff member, Holly Gourley confirmed the community feel of the bookstore.

“I started working here because I spent way too much money in this store and then one day Megan came up and asked if I’d considered working at the bookstore… starting on Friday. I’ve never looked back.”

Another factor in the shop’s survival is the friendly, personal service. At least that’s Susan McGuigan’s take on the shop’s success. She’s another of Scott’s staff.

“People know about this store. We have a great, curated, stock and we’re all very friendly and helpful and … well we’re really nice women,” she said with a smile that at once confirmed her self-evaluation.

Will Ivy’s Bookshop last another 60 years?

“There’s always going to be people who love to hold a book – the feel of it and the smell of it. Where else can you just disappear into another world?” Scott said. “And I have a responsibility to sustain the legacy left by Ivy, and to continue to be here for the wonderful community that has kept us going for so long. I just want to thank them so much.”

And that, of course, brought us back to thinking of the cupcakes and prizes that will be available on at their June 1 celebration.

Ivy, we’re sure, would have approved.

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