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Hunter Street Books moves to store-within-a-store model

Michelle Berry

Hunter Street Books has closed its doors, but owner Michelle Berry has found a like-minded partner to keep books in the hands of her customers in Peterborough, Ontario.

Starting June 1, Hunter Street, which will remain active as an online shop, will rent two physical shelves inside neighbouring Meta4 Contemporary Craft Gallery, featuring a selection of books handpicked by Berry. “There will be two curated shelves that rotate all the time – new releases, themed stuff — from now on,” she says.

Meta4 is already on board as the new pickup location for Hunter Street’s online orders. The store’s free (contactless) delivery service within Peterborough will also continue.

Hunter Street, which opened in 2016 in the city’s downtown café and restaurant district, was Peterborough’s only independently run first-hand bookstore since Titles closed in 2012. Although the store was doing well prior to COVID-19 shutdowns, Berry had been considering scaling down operations as she has been dealing with a debilitating medical condition for the past four years. As the main employee, assisted by three rotating part-time staff who work point-of-sale on Fridays and Saturdays, Berry found the workload of running the shop to be overwhelming. While Ontario is allowing for storefront retailers like Hunter Street to open their doors effective this week, Berry’s health is too precarious to consider that option.

This store-within-a-store model has proven successful elsewhere. While making the transition, Berry has been in close contact with Martha Sharpe, owner of Flying Books in Toronto, which has several rotating locations inside other establishments in the city’s west end. “She’s been giving me amazing advice,” says Berry.

While Meta4’s staff will sell Hunter Street’s books, Berry will continue to run the store’s other operations, such as advertising and online processing. Titles currently not represented in her 2,000-book inventory can be ordered, though Berry warns that they will require a longer wait and availability is tentative.

Although some booksellers are feeling the loss of in-store events, they were never a money-maker for Hunter Street, which stopped doing them after the first year in business. Berry, who is also an author, does have an event on the horizon. Her new book, Everything Turns Away, comes out in September 2021. “I hope to have a book launch at [Meta4] with all my friends,” she says. “I’m sure that will be fun.”