Here’s a good and positive story for these days of doomsaying and handwringing over the fortunes of bookstores. Munro’s Books in Victoria, British Columbia, founded in 1963 by Jim Munro and his then wife, Nobel laureate Alice Munro, is passing into the hands of its staff on the retirement of its founder. The thriving institution, “Canada’s most magnificent bookstore,” has been at its present 1108 Government Street premises since 1984, in a 1909 neo-classical building originally designed for the Royal Bank of Canada. Jim Munro, now 84, will hand the store over to four senior employees on his retirement in September, according to the Vancouver Sun.
“I’ve been in the book business for 51 years,” Munro told the Sun. “It’s time to go.”
Munro’s Books appears to be resisting the pressures of the digital era just fine, although having Nobel Prize associations certainly helps. Munro himself reportedly is confident that his younger staff will be able to keep ahead of ebook trends, and that readers will always still want to own a book. Munro will continue to own the store’s holding company, which collects a rent from the store itself.
“Many of our customers have Kindles or Kobos and they still come in, because it’s not the same experience,” manager Jessica Walker, one of the soon-to-be new owners, told the Sun. Munro himself, meanwhile, warned aspirants about the uncertainty of bookselling these days. “It is a real challenge for any independent bookseller these days,” he told the Globe and Mail.