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Shop Talk: Raven’s End Books

Chelsea McKee-Trenchard, Raven’s End Books (photos courtesy Chelsea McKee-Trenchard)

Shop Talk is an occasional feature in which fledgling independent booksellers take Q&Q into their stores and share their reasons for opening and what business has been like so far. 

Raven’s End Books: The Horror Bookshop
1859 Portage Ave
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Raven’s End Books was born out of owner Chelsea McKee-Trenchard’s desire for change. 

After working in a corporate job for almost seven years, McKee-Trenchard realized she wasn’t happy in her work environment and decided to leave the role. McKee-Trenchard decided to pivot to bookselling, and ran horror-focused Raven’s End Books online and at local markets in Winnipeg for a few months before moving into a brick-and-mortar space earlier this year.

McKee-Trenchard opened the 950-square-foot store on January 4, and is the owner and only employee. Establishing the store in an accessible neighbourhood and accessible building was important to her – the store’s entrance has no stairs or steps, and the store is located in a walkable neighbourhood just west of downtown Winnipeg so that people who don’t own cars (like McKee-Trenchard) can get there easily.

McKee-Trenchard recently spoke to Q&Q about what the first few months of business have been like.  

Why open Raven’s End Books in 2024? What was it about your community that inspired you to open the store?

About 18 months ago, I had a big professional shakeup that caused me to step back and reevaluate what I wanted to get out of my career. I realized that I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for by working for someone else, and that my love of books – and horror – and creating community could be realized through opening a bookstore. 

How has the community responded to the store?

We have been really welcomed by the community and already have a loyal customer base. We’ve had a few events which were well-attended and commented upon by attendees. We have also been supported by other Winnipeg independent booksellers. There is no sense of competition, just support to see one another succeed. 

How do you reach potential readers?

When we were wanting to promote the store’s opening, we shared on Reddit and in local book and horror groups. We participated in Winnipeg Comiccon, vendored at horror film screenings at the Park Theatre, and had a table at an alternative market. It was great to connect with the public who has like-minded interests. My favourite thing about those events was seeing the excitement in people’s eyes: we were really creating a space for an unrecognized and underserved demographic. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your special focus?

While some people were hesitant about me opening a horror bookstore, since it opened, people have begun to see how many fans of the genre there actually are. Horror tends to be a stigmatized genre that other bookstores do not respond to – they usually only stock the biggest names and don’t create shelf space for the smaller publishers and lesser-known authors. Customers have been excited about discovering new books in the shop and being able to find something that appeals to their niche tastes. 

What has been most surprising or unexpected about opening a bookstore or about your first few months in business?

The biggest, most surprising thing has been the support from the bookselling community. The other booksellers in Winnipeg have been so supportive and have even sent customers my way when individuals were interested in horror. It’s been awe-inspiring, and I have been striving to pass it on in any way I can.

This interview has been edited and condensed.