“I saw my bookstore so clearly in my imagination. It was my Narnia moment that pushed me to boldly open a bookstore in less than two months. I found myself constantly chanting Aslan’s most memorable quote: Courage, dear heart!”
The Book Wardrobe in Mississauga, ON is beloved by customers and the community alike. With its memorable origin story, charming space, and mission to create and serve readers, this store is a joy to encounter. We spoke with owner Carmela Vedar about her journey to bookstore ownership, how she approaches her business, and what she loves about being an indie bookseller.
What is The Book Wardrobe’s origin story? Why did you want to open a bookstore?
Opening a bookstore was a journey for me, best described in prequel, past, and present touch points…
Prequel: At the age of 10, I fell in love with the essence of reading – Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women had me at “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents” in chapter one. It was the best pick up line in my coming-of-age romance with literature. I completely devoured every page, every word, and every character of Little Women, and experienced having my heart flutter, gasp, crushed, and torn. After all, isn’t that what falling in love is all about? Reading became my first love and led to my overall interest in words: how vocabulary, grammar, and language can create a universe filled with stories. Reading expanded my imagination and eventually introduced me to my other love, writing (which is another literary spectrum that deserves its own story some other time).
Past: Florence Green from Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop and Kathleen Kelly from Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail inspired me to open a bookstore. To this day, these two fictional characters created by two non-fictional women are the greatest influencers for bookselling. I believe that to be an efficient, successful, and professional bookseller, one must have Florence’s courage and feistiness as well as Kathleen’s positivity and resilience. And a sound and steady business plan, of course.
Present: In 2017, an unsuspecting pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal became a prayer answered and lead to my discovery of a charming space at the 2nd floor of the Robinson-Bray heritage house in Streetsville, Mississauga. I saw my bookstore so clearly in my imagination. It was my Narnia moment that pushed me to boldly open a bookstore in less than two months. I found myself constantly chanting Aslan’s most memorable quote: “Courage, dear heart!”
The space is charming! Can you tell us about the store itself – including the building and neighbouring businesses – and what visitors can expect when they come into the store?
The Robinson-Bray heritage house was originally a private home built in 1885 by notable Streetsville builders and owned by two families. The Italianate-style building transitioned to a commercial structure in 1988 and is now home to The Book Wardrobe and other local businesses.
What might our readers be surprised to learn about The Book Wardrobe?
A few things!
You carry a wide range of books that appeal to a variety of readers – not an easy feat in a smaller space! How do you curate your store’s collection?
I curate through research, reading, and listening. When I started operating the bookstore, I had no clue which books would be fast-moving and so I initially relied on the backlist and frontlist titles across all categories (Children’s, Fiction, Non-fiction, Young Adult, Bio/Memoirs, Health & Wellness, Social Science, Psychology, Politics, etc.).
To this day, I research my customers’ demographics, read the latest trends/reports/articles, and listen to feedback from my customers, other booksellers, authors, account managers, suppliers and publishers to help curate my stock.
Can you share some recent or upcoming releases your team is excited about?
I came across The Cine Star Salon, a debut novel by Leah Ranada who is a Philippine-born Canadian author based in New Westminster, BC. I was thrilled to add this book to my roster of Filipina-Canadian titles that include The Quiet Is Loud by Samantha Garner from Mississauga, ON and Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados from Toronto, ON.
What is your vision for the store’s future?
Our mission is to help people enjoy reading, one page at a time. Our vision is that we might inspire future booksellers and develop bookselling as a career at par with other corporate jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities.
What do you love most about being an independent bookseller?
Seeing joy in customers’ faces when they enter the bookstore and making their day a little brighter after they leave with a new book in hand.