It’s been almost one full year since Bob and Donna Berry, along with Bill Gay, started up Books and Collectibles at 137 Gore Street.
The store is a combination of two businesses, formerly located at Mill Market, the owners having decided to join under one roof on the reviving Gore Street and operate six days a week.
Bob and Donna Berry are the owners of The Skeleton Key Used Bookstore, Bill Gay is the owner of the former Bill’s Toys and Comics, now sharing one side of the Gore Street space with the Berrys.
“When we came together, we named it Books and Collectibles so it would incorporate everything we want to sell,” Donna told SooToday.
We dropped in and chatted with the three entrepreneurs, leaving three SooToday mugs in appreciation for being the subject of this week’s SooToday Mid-Week Mugging.
“To sell used books was a plan of ours, to do when we retired. We started planning about 10 years ago in terms of collecting books. Its something we both really had a passion for,” said Bob, a retired child and youth counsellor.
Donna is a retired early childhood educator.
It took the couple eight years to accumulate 68,000 books, which were kept at a local storage facility before they launched their business.
Donna said there “definitely” is a market for used books, and something about going into a real store and purchasing a book without resorting to buying books on Kindle, which are portable e-book reader devices developed by Amazon.
“I’ve heard so many people say Kindle was great when it first came out, but nowadays people really do want that hard cover, that sensory feeling, they want to lend it to friends, display it on their bookshelves, so we’re getting many Kindle owners coming right back to buying books all over again and just using Kindle for travel,” Donna said.
“You don’t want to take seven books with you to your holiday in Cuba,” Donna smiled.
“We have a really nice cross section of customers. We get the Moms and Dads coming in wanting books for their toddlers, to read to them. They want their kids being brought up with books and not a laptop or a screen, they want to get back to that traditional way of reading,” Bob said.
University and college students come into the store and buy up the classics, while many other customers love popular fiction, biographies and religious books.
“We try to have a bit of everything,” Bob said.
“What we don’t have, we sometimes have in storage, or we’ll try and find it for our customers,” Donna added, and the two will also deliver books to shut-ins.
All the store’s books are quite affordably priced, and donated books are always welcome.
On occasion, customers have been able to find books at the Gore Street store which they haven’t been able to find in the Amazon/eBay universe.
“There was one person, his great-grandmother was Indigenous and there was a book written about her that is now out of print, and he found it here, and he was thrilled with it. I thought ‘that’s such an awesome story!’” Donna said.
There are two items on the store’s shelves which will fascinate Star Trek fans.
Bob, a Trekkie, has a replica of a Captain James T. Kirk uniform from Star Trek, The Original Series, autographed for Bob by William Shatner, who he met at a Star Trek convention in Toronto in 1992.
There is also a bust of a Talosian alien, originating from the original Star Trek pilot episode made in the 1960s.
Both the Shatner uniform and the Talos IV alien bust are not for sale, by the way.
Bill, a retired steelworker, started up his collectibles business to stay active.
“You can’t stay at home and put your feet up. I like to keep moving around and I like meeting interesting people who come in. I like to listen to their stories.”
“I enjoy coming here, even in the snow. Anything shiny, I’ll buy it and put it up for sale here. Sometimes things will sell right away,” said Bill, who added he has “thousands” of items in storage, collected from garage sales and donations.
Items for sale on Bill’s side of the store include antique sleds, historic photographs of royalty and movie stars, replicas of concert posters (for many famous artists and groups), old fashioned rotary phones, carvings, lanterns, a sheet of uncut Canadian one dollar bills, coins (an area of expertise for Bill), Inuit art, an antique baby carriage, even an old farming device designed to cut horns off a cow (ouch!).
Sales of certain items tend to go in cycles, Bill said.
“For a week I’ll sell a lot of toys (such as Hot Wheels toy cars, as well as larger car models, all of them in their original packaging), then all of a sudden people will want comics (especially Batman).”
Books and Collectibles is open 11 a.m to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday.
Bob and Donna Berry may be contacted at 705-987-1173, through email or their Skeleton Key Used Bookstore page on Facebook.
Bill Gay may be contacted at 705-206-4740.