On Wednesday, I learned the terribly sad news that my much beloved Flying Dragon Bookshop will be closing its doors at the end of June after eight magical years of bookselling.
This news has hit me hard. It is especially difficult given that it’s been barely a week since it was announced that the store was named Specialty Bookseller of the Year by the Canadian Booksellers Association.
A couple of years after the store opened I went in for the first time to drop off my resume. It had always been a fantasy for me to work in a children’s bookstore, having spent countless hours in bookstores with my dad when I was a kid, always leaving with a haul of books meant to keep me going till our next trip to the city for more books and Chinese food at our favourite spot on Spadina. I think that those days spent with my dad, hanging around in the finest independent bookstores in Toronto, played such a role in making me a reader, a booklover, for life. So I knew as soon as I set foot in The Flying Dragon that this place was the real deal. I met Nina McCreath and she told me that they would keep my resume on file, but that they weren’t looking to hire anyone at the moment. I was so disappointed, but not surprised. I could tell from just a few minutes in the store that it was the sort of place that if you were fortunate enough to work there, you’d want to stay for as long as you could. I came home talking about the shop, wishing that I could have been lucky enough to walk in right at the time when they were needing a new employee.
The very next day, Nina called. It turned out they did need someone. It turned out I was lucky after all. So, so lucky.
Every single day I worked at the store was magic.
I was blessed to meet and work with many talented, funny, smart, kind, and just generally awesome people. Nina and Cathy inspired me, and I think they always will, whenever I think of the store and what they achieved.
As I understand it, their primary reason for closing came down to sales. They just couldn’t see making a go of it after a decline that started this January. I have to wonder, if people this passionate about books and knowledgeable about the industry, this hardworking and creative, can’t make it work, then who can?
I’m feeling so much more than I could express here, but I keep coming back to sad.
I will miss them. I will miss the way I feel whenever I go to the store. It’s such a beautiful place. Being there does something to me. Whatever worries or cares I might have, when I’m in the store surrounded by the books, feeling all those stories around me, my perspective shifts. The store represents creativity, hope, possibility, dreams made real – so many of the things I hope to find in the world. We need more magic places like this.
I went to the store yesterday because I wanted to see it while it was still full of books. They’ll be selling as much as they can over the next month. I wanted to see it the way I hope to remember it, full of stories and beautiful things, looking like the bookstore you’d imagine if asked to conjure the perfect children’s bookshop. I looked for a copy of the first book I read after I started working at the store, Goodnight Mr. Tom, but I couldn’t find one, so I bought a dragon instead. I thought about all of the authors and books I discovered there. I felt the magic. It was hard to leave.
Thank you Cathy. Thank you Nina. I know you will create magic in whatever you do next. I wish you every good thing. And good books forever. Always books.