McNally Robinson closes its Toronto location

December 29, 2009 by · 8 Comments 

They say bad news comes in threes. On August 31 of this year, one of Toronto’s beloved independent booksellers, Pages Books and Magazines, shut its doors after 30 years in business. The very next day, TYPE books closed its Danforth Street location. And today, the Toronto Star is reporting that McNally Robinson has closed its Don Mills location as part of a larger restructuring. This is, to say the least, dispiriting news capping a year in which books and booksellers seemed to have been under a sustained assault.

A note on McNally Robinson’s website attempts to put a positive spin on things:

By now you may have heard that McNally Robinson has had to close two stores, one in Toronto and the other at Polo Park. Many jobs are lost and many customers will be disappointed. This has been a heart-rending process. However, Grant Park, our flagship store, has survived, as has our Saskatoon store. In addition we continue our wholesale division, Skylight books, and our website, www.mcnallyrobinson.com. These continue to reflect the quality of bookselling that has led to 7 citations as Canadian independent Bookseller of the Year since 1996. So while the potion is bittersweet, the glass is more than half full.

While it’s clearly important for McNally Robinson to keep its corporate chin up, it’s hard not to feel depressed about the Toronto store’s demise, a scant nine months after it opened. The news comes hot on the heels of a plea for financial assistance from yet another Toronto indie, the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, which needs to raise $40,000 in order to avoid closing.

For all the optimism about digital books heading into 2010, those of us who are devoted to actual, physical books need to make a concerted effort to ensure that the trend of bookstore closings doesn’t continue apace. Support your local independent bookstores, people. Let’s try to ensure a happy new year, wot?

Comments

8 Responses to “McNally Robinson closes its Toronto location”
  1. August says:

    Bah, this sucks. I really liked McNally Robinson. Their flagship store was my favourite, but the one in Don Mills was quite nice. And now I’ll have to see if I can use my gift certificate online.

  2. A ray of light, from my side of the continent. There’s only one indie left in downtown Halifax, Bookmark, unless you count Woozles, which specializes in kids’ books. This might be bad news except for the fact that the two recent departures, The Book Room and Frog Hollow, were pretty mediocre stores. Halifax is blessed, in that no big box Chindigo type stores are located downtown, so now the Bookmark, which has long been the best store, can really thrive. Every time I go in, the place is bustling and the staff tells me that sales are up.

  3. Andrew S says:

    The good news, if there is good news (which, of course, there never is), is that … forget it. There’s no good news.

    Yes there is! Long-term, it’s big-box bookselling that’s going to be unsustainable. As physical books become boutique objects, the independent bookstore will be the place to get them.

    But every independent bookstore you love is likely to go out of business before that happens. So that was actually bad news. Sorry ’bout that.

    I discovered the Bookmark on my most recent trip to Halifax — it’s one of the things that makes Halifax a favorite.

  4. August says:

    “As physical books become boutique objects”

    I still don’t buy this argument, but that’s a discussion for an entirely different post.

  5. Alex says:

    We’ve seen this coming for a while now. Bricks-and-mortar bookstores are going to find it hard to survive in a world where Amazon is cutting 30-40% off every title and giving you free delivery on pretty much any order of two or more books. I agree with Andrew that the big-box stores will likely be the hardest hit. Too much overhead. Smaller boutique stores may be able to last in some markets. But the future of retail in the book business is all online.

  6. DGM says:

    My 2010 resolution: Use It Or Lose It. This includes going to the old-school rep cinemas near my house while they’re still showing movies, eating at the local greasy spoon with its original fifties-era decor before it gets renovated and converted into a Thai restaurant, and buying books at independent bookstores whenever and wherever possible. Even if these places close down, it’s still better to put money and time to the cause and experience these brick’n’mortar establishments while they’re available to enjoy.

  7. I love McNally Robinson. The Saskatoon store is always hopping. Here’s hoping that will continue.

  8. Anthony says:

    As a former employee who spent 19 years there, on and off, I was not sorry to see Tory McNally’s venture become a massive failure. She and her idiot husband drove the business into the ground, with unrealisable and unsustainable objectives, and I would be one to know as I’m still owed over one hundred hours of overtime. Anyone willing to bet whether I’ll ever get my overtime? I’m sorry for the staff in Toronto and Winnipeg who had to pay the price for this, and just after Christmas.