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Shop Talk: Rookery Books

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. 

Rookery Books
25 Main Street
Cambridge, Ontario

Prior to opening Rookery Books in December 2022, Alice Drysdale was looking for a change.

Drysdale had been teaching literature at Queen’s University, and although she loved the teaching part – introducing students to new and interesting books and leading them in discussions about literature – there were other less pleasant aspects of the job. 

“I had gotten burned out on the rest of academia, so I was looking for a change that kept me in the book world,” Drysdale says.

Running a bookstore was a longtime dream, and when Drysdale found herself in a good position to change tracks mid-pandemic, “it felt like the right time!”

Rookery Books held a grand opening on January 21, 2023 after officially opening its doors on December 1. The store has 900 square feet of selling space and Drysdale – the sole owner and employee – says it is well-curated and cozy, if small. The store’s location in a heritage building meant that Drysdale had to get approval from the city before erecting exterior signage. 

Drysdale recently answered a few questions for Q&Q about Rookery’s first few months of business.

Why open Rookery Books in 2022? 

When I was looking for a place to settle long-term after leaving Kingston, Cambridge seemed like a perfect spot because of its proximity to my family in the area and for the energy of Galt’s downtown, which is seeing a strong revitalization effort. I had spent some time here when Main Street was closed to pedestrians in the summer and the vibe was so inviting and positive. Cambridge had been without an independent bookstore since the owner of Book Express (in the Cambridge Centre) retired right before the pandemic, so it really felt like a perfect fit.

How has the community responded to the store?

The community here has been nothing short of amazing. Everyone has been so excited and welcoming of the store. My own interests and curation priorities have meshed extremely well with the sensibilities and interests of the readers here. I honestly could not ask for a better reception. I feel quite embraced by the community.

How do you reach potential readers?

I try to maintain an active social media presence, primarily with Instagram, and  a small feature ran in a local periodical, but the bulk of readers who enter the store have done so because of positive word of mouth and direct recommendations. It also helps that my location is well-positioned in the core of downtown Galt, which sees good foot-traffic, so I try to make my front windows as appealing as possible.

What are your goals for the bookstore? Does the store have any special focus?

My primary goal with the store is to give attention to books or authors that might not otherwise see attention at larger stores. My hope is to give space to underrepresented voices and topics in literature and to help expand my readers’ experiences through strong curation and recommendation. Potential profits are not a priority. I hope to create a positive space that serves the community and its individual members.

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

This will likely sound obvious, but I had not truly internalized the fact that stocking my store with books meant that I had to personally select every single title. I understood it in theory but it is a whole different matter to actually sit down and hand select every book, doing my best to make sure I keep a wide selection without overstocking or understocking particular genres or subjects. It is a very enjoyable but nonetheless daunting experience.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 


March 1st, 2023

1:08 pm

Category: Bookselling, Industry News

Tags: ,