Like a good vintage, the smell is evocative and stirs scent memories. It’s a combination of grassy notes with a tang of acid and a hint of vanilla overlaid with a mustiness. It’s not a particularly nice smell but it’s a heady aroma to a book lover.
The Book Shop in Penticton greets you with its warm olfactory embrace as you step into its astounding 5,000 square feet.
The Book Shop’s founder and owner Bruce Stevenson describes it as a, “big city bookstore in a small town. Any bookstore in business as long as we have been (42 years) is going to have this many books.” When I ask how many books?, Bruce answers with a stock reply, “About the same number as I’ve been asked that question.” Joking aside, he simply doesn’t know. There is another 3,000 square feet of books stored in the old post office building in Penticton as well, he adds.The largest used bookstore in Western Canada and one of the largest in all of Canada is in a city of only 40,000 people and it’s only 20 minutes down the road from my village. Who knew? We moved here for the beautiful weather, the wineries, the scenery…blah, blah, blah… but the discovery of the book store cinched the move as the best idea we’ve ever had.
An outing to The Book Shop is like entering the bar on Cheers. Roz, pictured above getting my Beryl Markham biography off a high shelf, may not remember my name but she knows I’m training to swim the English Channel. It’s a place to go to chat about books, local politics, movies…whatever. With more than 25 years working at The Book Shop, she has an encyclopedic knowledge of book titles, authors and where in the maze to find what you are looking for.
With more books, covering a greater variety of subjects than many small-town libraries, The Book Shop is a wonderful enigma in the small city of Penticton. The huge variety and quantity of stock is a reflection of Bruce’s basic business philosophy, “a second-hand bookstore should be everything to everybody, people must be enticed to return again and again, they won’t come back if they feel they have seen it all in 10 minutes”.
It’s also a great place to rent really great and really weird movies, of which we have seen many, particularly when the Handyman chooses them. The Book Shop provides nearly 20,000 video & DVD titles including the most extensive selection of foreign films available for rental in the Okanagan Valley.
Many, many of those uncountable books with their lovely old book smell are now part of my collection and may likely end up back there years and years from now. Who can resist when most only cost between $5 and $10.
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