January 22, 2010

Duthie Books closing after 53 years

Bookstore in red by Szymon SurmaPhoto by Szymon Surma via Flickr.

The colour-themed window display changed from blue to a startling black. This was no longer the time for a cheery yellow, or a come hither violet which announced itself in beautifully intricate illustrations. No, it was a display that suggested mourning: Kitsilano’s Duthie Books is closing at the end of February.

It is my daily dose of design inspiration on my way to work. The highlight of my short walk after a long bus ride. The surprise, the freshness — what will they think up next? or ooh, they are incredibly clever/thoughtful/creative! and gosh, that must be fun! (Perhaps I’ll take a page from their book — no pun intended — and rearrange my own every so often. But I will need more first.) I have enjoyed it day after day for over a year. I have even sometimes wondered if others watch me staring at the covers intently and ask themselves what could be so fascinating. And, as if they knew who was walking by twice a day, the staff put up design books one week and I felt giddy. I cannot think of anywhere else that has helped me discover so many interesting book covers — and potential reads. Design love aside, however, the rotating display is a highlight for many of my colleagues who are as heartbroken as I am to see it go.

I enjoyed the recent assembly in which I could pick out a few I owned or had bought for others, including In Defense of Food, The End of Food and Climate Cover-Up, all within the themes of food, animal ethics and climate change. Could I love them more? Their poster-covered door often updates me on the latest alluring Vancouver Art Gallery show, and occasionally the children’s window reminds me of something cherished I’d long forgotten.

But as if it were a real-life “Little Shop Around the Corner”…

Everybody knows that Independent bookstores have been under pressure from the ‘big box’ operations for many years now and it is clear that it is not going to get any better; the likes of Chapters, and Amazon are ruthless in their drive for market share and we cannot compete on price anymore. The book itself is in the throes of a technological transformation and book readers undergoing a major demographic shift.

What a sad, sad story.

Please support them by buying some books and magazines (their final sale begins Thursday, January 28) and let them know how much you have cherished their presence and service in Vancouver. I know I will sorely miss the warm atmosphere, the exciting and fresh design, and the existence of an independent, locally-owned bookstore. I hope whatever takes its place is just as beautiful.

My heart goes out to the Duthie family and other staff that have been part of our communities for so long. We will miss you.