Creaky stairs, a dizzying display of wall-to-wall book spines and the calming smell of ink on paper are some of the charming qualities of the maze-like make up of Russell Books. The long-term downtown staple has been at its location at 734 Fort St. for nearly 30 years, but now the two-building, three storey business is moving out.
“It’s a bit bittersweet, we like what we have and we’re a little sad that we’re leaving,” said owner Andrea Minter. “But, our new spot will be a lot better for inventory.”
The bookstore originated in Montreal, Minter said, thanks to her grandfather’s penchant for collecting books.
“He was a banker who collected books so much that grandmother pushed him to do something with them,” Minter said. “So he rented a 300 square foot spot right next to the bank, and had his mother operate it while he was at work.”
Eventually the business became one of Montreal’s largest book stores. In 1991, Minter’s grandfather encouraged her parents to move to Victoria and open up shop there, where the business has continued to thrive and form an integral part of the Fort Street community.
Russell Books’ current location is made up of two buildings, including one which houses BC Shave and Hobby Ltd., another long-term store that is closing its doors as the owner retires.
“The owner is contemplating selling the building, so I had to make a decision as to what I was going to do to preserve our store,” Minter said.
Luckily enough, an opportunity opened up directly across the street at 747 Fort St., formally a Staples Office supply store.
The 18,000 sq. ft., two-storey space will offer Russell Books a much better opportunity to display more of its inventory, as well as accessibility for people who were not able to go up the store’s steep stairs to its basement and third-floor levels.
“It was a bit of a bite to chew off but we decided to take that leap and we’re so excited,” Minter said. “It’s just a better space; it’s bigger, brighter more modern and has the capability of holding more books… But, we want to keep the same sort of feel and use the same sort of colours.”
Minter said it will be no small task to move all the stock; she estimates over 1 million books will need to be moved, all while avoiding closing the shop if possible.
Russell Books signed a 10-year lease at the new location, which Minter hopes will open in three or four months. The View Street location of Russell Books will also remain open for the time being, as the lease at that location is still good for three more years.
So far there are no official plans for new tenants at the store’s current location, though Minter said she’s aiming for something local.
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