I happened to catch a glimpse of Nicholas Hoare, with his raincoat flapping behind him, earlier in the week. I was at my kitchen window, making coffee. Nicholas is a great walker, so it wasn't surprising to see him striding along. What was odd was that he was on my street, which is not on the way to his store. I sat down at my computer to read my email, and opened up a message with a link to the story in The Globe & Mail leaking the news.
So it's no surprise to see reports this Friday afternoon confirming that Nicholas Hoare will be closing his Montreal and Ottawa stores. Very bad news for everyone in the book industry, however, and very sad news for all of us who have loved him and his store.
Here in Montreal we loudly lamented the closing of Judy Mappin's much-loved Double Hook Book Shop. The downtown Nicholas Hoare book shop closed, and even though we missed that, we still had other options, including the Greene Avenue store. Besides, it wasn't yet clear that the worst was yet to come. We have since seen the passing of other independents, from John George's Argo Books to Paragraphe, now swallowed up by Archambault and Quebecor.
And yes, there are rumours that the day of the community bookstore may come again, though I suspect it would take an unusually intrepid bookseller -- and one with an appetite for extraordinarily hard work -- to make a go of it at the moment. But Nicholas Hoare, one of the very best, will no longer have a store in Montreal.
I worked closely with Nicholas during the years when he was selling the English books for the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival. As a writer, I have been happy to launch my recent books in his Greene Avenue store, where Nicholas would introduce me in his inimitable way. As a reader, I have known to go there when I was looking for a book -- the letters of Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie, say -- that I had good reason to doubt I -
would find anywhere else in town. And as a bookish Montrealer, I have been happy to know him, to sit beside him at lunch with this writer or that one, to hear him talk about the good old days in publishing, to spend an evening en route to Ottawa and back for a literary event, and share some of the best literary gossip around.
Nicholas, you've been the liveliest bookseller in town. I'm sure you'll love it when you move to Nova Scotia, but we here are going to miss you.
© Linda Leith 2012
Postscript: Reporting that the decision was prompted by rent increases, Q&Q Omni quotes Nicholas as saying, "Really, it’s a question of economics, not Amazon: we simply cannot contemplate swinging rental increases to this degree.”