When Katharine Tutko graduated in 2015 with a bachelor of science degree from the University of Toronto, she didn’t know what she wanted to do next. She went back to school for a one-year program in public administration, but that didn’t put her any closer to a career path. As a student, Tutko worked part-time as a customer service representative at Indigo Books & Music, which is where she fell in love with bookselling. “I finally decided you only live one life – you have to do what you want to do,” Tutko says.
In late January, Tutko opened Moonbeam Books at Jane and Annette in Toronto’s west end. “I grew up around here. It’s a neighbourhood that’s close to my heart,” says Tutko. “When I was looking for places it was always in the back of my head that this was where I wanted to open. Especially since we don’t really have a lot of local bookstores, and none that has a children’s focus.”
The 800-square-foot space is located several blocks away from Book City’s Bloor West Village location. (The nearby Chapters Runnymede store shut down in 2014.) Tutko will have some new competition this summer from Type Books, which just announced a location opening soon in the Junction neighbourhood.
Tutko stocks a wide variety of titles, from board books to YA novels, as well as a small selection of games, puzzles, cards, and journals. “I am open to selling to what they call the blockbusters, but I also like to try and find hidden gems and books you wouldn’t find at another store,” says Tutko. “I love books that incorporate diversity, different lifestyles, and families, and because of my science background I also love books related to STEM. Having options for different kids is really important.”
Moonbeam held a few inaugural events over the March break and has plans to increase the number over time. Tutko has launched a community-focused book club for kids ages 8–10, with another in the works for slightly older readers. Currently the store is staffed solely by Tutko with help from some volunteer friends and family, but she is hoping to hire some students this summer.