Mixed emotions as co-op’s anniversary bids adieu to Chapter’s
The Concordia Community Solidarity Co-op bookstore celebrated its 12th anniversary this past Thursday by honouring the soon-to-be closed downtown Chapters location.
Strangely enough, amidst the food, music and eulogies it would be difficult to call the event a sad one. For many there, including bookstore staff, the party could be seen as a quip against large corporation bookstores, and a small triumph for Mom and Pop businesses.
The co-op functions as a not-for-profit organization without an owner. As a result of its cooperative status, anyone, whether they be customers, employees or volunteers, can help decide how best to provide a safe, friendly environment and wide selection of reasonably priced books. Their goal is to be “an inclusive space and make people feel welcome no matter what,” said event coordinator and long-time employee Larissa Dutil.
The event started with welcome speech, followed by personal eulogies to the once successful Chapters store. Authors, students and lovers of literature voiced their feelings about what the store meant to them. While some lamented the almost preternatural return policies and ability to drink coffee while browsing the shelves, others criticised its corpocratic nature and lack of desire to give back to the community at large. “Big chain stores [are] only going to carry what they can make the most money off of,” said Dutil. “If we have a bestseller, it’s probably a fluke.”
The funeral party included live music. Much to the surprise of those who showed up, the store featured two local bagpipe players, who were a welcome addition to the event. As well, there was a store-wide sale on new and used books, inspiring many to contribute. “It’s just nice to feel like you’re supporting something,” said author Sam Harries while commenting on the bookstore.
While it is possible to hypothesize why the Chapters store closed, it begs the greater question of the current state of hardcover books. Philip Leblanc, an avid reader, feels that “people still like the feeling of books; it’s a love affair that’s been around for a long time.”
Even with the existence of today’s hardcore book lovers, it is no secret that sales on physical copies of books have greatly declined. It has become especially difficult for many smaller scale book stores who offer a more niche selection. As well, internet stores such as Amazon and the rise of digital book readers have become the main nemesis of brick and mortar stores. “You can’t really compete with online. They’re winning, no matter what,” said Dutil.
There is no doubt that being around for 12 years is a major accomplishment. As it stands, the Concordia Co-Op Bookstore represents a remnant of days gone by and few can really say what the future holds. Though for now, maybe David got one good shot in against Goliath.