|McNally Robinson Booksellers, Winnipeg, MB Canada|
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Whatever I write in this brief blurb will not come close to conveying to you the totality of this incredible bookstore. This is my first visit to a Canadian bookstore and this one claims to be the largest and best. Without seeing any of the others, I would say yes and yes. If this store were in the US, it would compare favorably with the top tier stores like Tattered Cover in Denver, Powell's in Portland, and Vroman's in Pasadena, just to name a few . After entering here and when I was finally able to close my dropped jaw and bugged out eyes, my only disappointment was not finding the kitchen sink since they have everything else.
Obviously, this is not your typical small-operation neighborhood bookstore. McNally Robinson has been around for about 35 years and in its present location in the Grant Park Mall for about 20 years. The staff consists of over 200 employees at two locations, here and Saskatoon. In addition to an extensive inventory of books you can find all variety of sidelines. Music on vinyl and CDs, ukuleles, unique hats of all kinds, accessories for women including jewelry, anything for kids including clothes for toddlers, locally created items, and much, much more. After you get that ukulele, sign up for an in-store class for lessons. As co-owner Chris H. told me, don't put all your bookstore eggs in one basket, meaning it's important to have a diverse inventory and offer more than just books. There's a spacious restaurant/cafe in the store called Prairie Ink where you can get anything from a coffee and pastry to a light lunch.
I was especially impressed by the number of classes offered and held in the store. Everything from the Russian revolution to any kind of art, foreign languages, movies, wine, music, and books. Heck, I've seen skinnier course offerings at some community colleges (just indulge my exaggeration!). They also offer a self-publishing service for aspiring authors.
Before visiting here, I was resigned to the fact that I probably wouldn't get to meet the owner. Imagine my surprise to not only meet Chris but enjoy a great visit with him. He's been with McNally Robinson for about 20 years so the recent transition in ownership from the McNallys to Chris was fairly seamless. Like many US indies, he's seeing steady business growth which I think is very encouraging. Part of the success here was the McNallys' foresight to include more than just books in the business model.
I wish I could give you a better overview of this spectacular bookstore. But since I can't, you'll have to visit. And if you're in Winnipeg, this is a 5-star leader in the industry that is a required visit, over and over again! Go to an indie and buy a book. Bonsoir.
JUST FINISHED: Civilwarland In Bad Decline, George Saunders. Collection of short stories and a novella. This author has a definite style. Very witty and humorous, at times dark, try a few of these short stories to decide if you want more. Recommended.