News and Interviews

Celebrate Indie Bookstores on April 24: 3 Ontario Booksellers Tell Us What They Love About Their Jobs & Shops

Screen Shot 2021-04-15 at 1.39.53 PM

This Saturday, April 24, the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association is celebrating Canadian Independent Bookstore Day (CIBD), an annual love-in for the magical small stores that connect readers to their communities and their favourite books and writers, including helping us find new favourites, perfect gifts, and undiscovered gems.

Even in the age of online mega-retailers, many independent bookstores have managed to survive and thrive (and we've even seen some new stores open) through their unique ability to hand-sell books they know and love, host vibrant events, and connect with their customers. For many, bookstores have become cultural hubs and the heart of numerous neighbourhoods, towns, and cities. 

We're honoured to welcome three independent booksellers to Open Book to help us celebrate CIBD by chatting about their stores and their role in the publishing landscape: Tracy Fattore of Thistle Bookshop and Cafe in St. Catharines; Andrew Lloyd, co-owner of Books On Main in Bath, Ontario; and Katharine Tutko, owner of Moonbeam books in Toronto's west end. 

They tell us about favourite store memories, from seeing an author meet her biggest fan to watching kids become friends over a shared love of reading, and what it is like to be behind the counter in these special spaces. 

If you ever needed a good reason to buy a new book (or books!), consider contacting your local independent bookstore this weekend, on April 24, to show your support by ordering some fabulous new reads. The CIBA has a handy bookstore finding tool that will point you to a great local if you don't already have one in mind. And since countless bookstores across the country are open for curb-side pick up, online ordering, telephone ordering, and more, the pandemic need not put a damper on your celebration of the stores that support our stories, our writers, and our communities. 

Open Book:

Tell us a little about your background in bookselling. How did you come to the role and what brought you to the store you’re now at?  

Tracy Fattore of Thistle Bookshop and Cafe:

image2 (1)

What brought me to bookselling is a love of books and my interest in creating a community for people who love books, art, history, learning, and music. What interested me in the store is its special location in the lakeside heritage district of Port Dalhousie, St.Catharines, Ontario. My family has roots in the area as well as ties to the Scottish heritage of the town which has been built on a very strong sense of community.

Andrew Lloyd, Co-Owner of Books On Main:

I am brand new to bookselling! After releasing from fourteen years of service in the Canadian Armed Forces I moved to our small village of Bath. I wanted to try my hand at entrepreneurship and was drawn towards the idea of a small town bookstore, a place to meet and chat all things books. Books have always been a constant in my life. I grew up in a family of readers and would always have a book or two in my bag when travelling with the Forces.

Katharine Tutko, Owner of Moonbeam books:


Katharine Tutko

I worked at Chapters part-time throughout high school and university (where I studied biology and psychology, so completely different from where I ended up). I used to joke that talking about books was the only thing that kept me sane while I finished my degree. I've always loved books — I was the kid who read well past my bedtime and the teenager who always had a book with her. When it came time to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, while I loved my time at university, that career path didn't excite me as much as this wild dream I had of owning my own bookstore. I knew being a business owner was risky and uncertain but decided that I wanted to do something with my life where I would be happy and satisfied at the end of every day. So, I threw caution to the wind, followed my dreams, opened my own children's bookstore at 25, and have never looked back!

Open Book:

Since every independent store has its own character, can you tell us about the unique qualities of the bookstore you work in?  


The unique qualities of our bookstore are that it is a combined bookshop cafe that mixes both modern and vintage characteristics. Our goal is to create a friendly, knowledgeable and fun atmosphere where stories matter, welcoming people of all ages and backgrounds to our shop. While we have most traditional genres of books, we also carry unique books including an ancestry/Celtic section. We are also proud to support local authors and artists by stocking their work in our shop.



Andrew Lloyd

Our character is really created by our location. Bath is a small and historical village just outside of Kingston. The bookstore reflects this small town vibe. We have really grown to know our customers, because they're are neighbours too! We love to have conversations with our regulars, and anyone else who walks through the door. I think this is what really makes us unique, the personal touch!


Our bookstore has always been characterized by our relationship to our community. Since day one, our mission has been to be a welcoming and fun place for kids to explore what they like to read and to ultimately fall in love with books. When we were open to customers, we had a regular story time and two book clubs, we did tons of crafts and activities with our community, and even hosted birthday parties with bookish themes - we've made a lot of slime!

The other element of our character is how much of ourselves we put in the bookstore. My Hogwarts Lego set was on display in the store (until it tragically fell off the shelf and smashed, RIP Hogwarts) and our small staff proudly displays the reading challenges we participate in on the wall (one of them is always Pop Sugar's). I have pictures hanging up that were drawn for me by our little customers, who I know by name. It is all about making Moonbeam feel less like a store and more of a community space that celebrates reading in every way possible. 

Open Book:

Do you have a favourite anecdote about a book event or shopper in your time working as a bookseller?  


Books on Main in Bath ON

Books on Main in Bath, ON

Over the winter months we see many families in the neighbourhood heading to the nearby Henley Pond just steps away, for a family skate. One of our favourite visits was from a family – grandparents, parents, and grandkids – who had just come off of the pond after an afternoon of skating. They had come by to get a hot cup of cocoa and also picked up some special books to take with them. We were so happy to contribute to this family event where special memories were being created!


There's one that comes to mind. We recently had a book signing event by a local author, Rebecca, and she got to meet her biggest fan! They had never met, but loved she loved Rebecca's books and was so excited to meet her. It was really exciting for both of them, and that was impactful for us at the store as well. We were able to bring a bit of happiness during this pandemic.



Moonbeam Books

We've had some incredible events in our time, including the launches of both Megabat 2 with Anna Humphreys and Kass Reich, and Teddy Bear of the Year with Vikki Vansickle, that brought out crowds of excited kids, and the energy of those events is always electric. But my favourite events were doing Harry Potter Book Night where our store would be packed from wall to wall with kids dressed up in full costumes, grouping up with kids they'd never met before for Harry Potter Trivia and leaving as friends. It's those events where the whole community comes out to celebrate a shared love of reading that always stick in my mind.

Open Book:

Why do you think independent bookstores resonant so deeply with people? What is special about them?  


I think indie bookstores resonate so deeply with people because they are grounded in the fabric of the community. We truly feel that we are part of our customers' lives, as they are part of our lives. Additionally, an independent bookstore represents its community by stocking local works and other books based on the interests and needs of its friends and family members.  We are excited to continue to bring our bookshop to life through community events, including author signings, art shows, and music.



I think one of the reasons indies resonant so deeply with people, is it's a place to slow down and connect. It's a chance to be away from screens and have conversations with strangers over our shared love of the written word. 


I think the reason people connect with independent bookstores so much is that we build a special relationship with our customers. You know walking into an indie bookstore that the people working there absolutely love books and know what they're talking about, and that they will go the extra mile to make sure you get the perfect book. That's the experience I have shopping in other independents and what I always do with my customers. At my bookstore, we all kind of feel like one big family. I know customers by name, I know what their kids are reading, and I know what to suggest when they devour one series and need to move on to another. They come to us for that special connection and those specific recommendations. It's the kind of thing you'll never get with Amazon.


Click for more information on Thistle Bookshop and Cafe, Books on Main, and Moonbeam Books.

For more information about the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association and Canadian Independent Bookstore Day, visit the CIBA website