Thursday, March 13, 2008

Calgary McNally Robinson closing

The great downtown Calgary bookstore McNally Robinson, on the open-air mall Stephen Avenue Walk, is closing on August 1, 2008.

Calgary's economy is booming -- wages are high, rents are higher -- and a small-margins business like bookselling can't make a go of it in such a prime downtown location.

I'm really sad about this. Not only was I very fond of the staff -- who had always treated me extremely well -- but it was a truly beautiful bookstore: three storeys, with a lovely spiral staircase, a restaurant, and a great, spacious patio on which many a wonderful book launch had been held (including the one for Danita Maslan's Rogue Harvest, published under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint). I have wonderful memories of attending events at the store -- my own, and those of other authors -- and of just browsing or of chatting with the knowledgeable staff. It's a real loss.

(The McNally Robinson chain is doing fine, with another store opening in two weeks in Winnipeg, and one opening in Toronto 13 months from now. The Calgary branch was not one of those that contributes to the Locus bestsellers list.)

Today's Calgary Herald has more.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site



At March 13, 2008 9:22 PM , Anonymous don said...

Being a Calgarian, I have to tell you why I've never been to that bookstore, even though I spend $50-$100 a month on books.

- our downtown is the most ridiculous downtown if you don't work or bus through there
- parking anywhere is horrible and expensive
- there's no great reasons to spend a day seeing the sights downtown (yes, there are a few interesting attractions, but not when you've seen them once)
- all in all, to go downtown is a big hassle

Move the bookstore to anywhere else in the city that I can drive to and I would. Except, I won't pay for parking - which is why none of the stores in Kensington get my business anymore (since the mid 80s).

Some may not agree with me, but that's my take.

I hope they figure out a way to move the store rather than close it. If they did, they'd start to get my business.


At March 13, 2008 11:00 PM , Blogger Gruntled said...

I have to agree about the parking! I won't go anywhere I have to pay for parking unless I have no choice.

It really is too bad but I don't see how any independents(I'm assuming) will be able to compete. I can go online and compare any number of books, read excerpts and ratings as well as have it delivered to my door in 24 hours if necessary. Bookstores are great (For my sister and I, owning a eclectic -- Science, Comp. Programming, SciFi and Mystery -- bookstore was a childhood dream) but I just don't see a future. Especially with print on demand looming.

Rob, have you heard anything about POD? Who, when, etc?

At March 13, 2008 11:08 PM , Blogger Gruntled said...

Just re-read my post... OK, I'm a putz!

At March 15, 2008 12:38 PM , Anonymous Hayden said...

I haven't lived in Calgary for a while but I have some good memories of that store. The most vivid is listening to Peter Gzowski's farewell broadcast -- it was a big event with over 200 people showing up to make it a collective experience.

As for downtown parking -- yes, it is expensive but what's the alternative? Big shopping malls where you might be in Halifax, Calgary, Denver or Miami and never be able to tell the difference?

At March 16, 2008 10:27 PM , Blogger Gruntled said...

Inexpensive parking?

At March 23, 2008 10:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's too bad - wonderful bookstore, with multi-levels and tonnes of character. I saw Rob reading Rollback there last year - thanks Rob! I've moved to Victoria - the parking isn't much better and the "Alberta Advantage" of high costs, no service is evident everywhere. Too bad. I hope the can open in another part of the city.



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