Neighbours of Edgemont Interview
Name of your business and a brief description of what you provide to the community.
32 Books & Gallery is an an oasis of literary and artistic delight in the heart of Edgemont Village in beautiful North Vancouver, BC. Our shop is a gathering place for bibliophiles, art lovers, friends and neighbours.
We offer our customers a wonderful selection of books as well as gifts for all ages & inclinations, unusual greeting cards, local art for the wall and mantel, jewellery by Canadian & international artisans, games, puzzles, journals, and personal knowledgeable service with a smile.
History of your business. How long have you been involved? What brought you into this line of work?
Deborah McVittie, with her little black lab, Jem, by her side has owned 32 Books & Gallery in North Vancouver for over twelve years and this indie bookstore has been serving readers on the North Shore for more than twenty.
In her previous life as a writer, editor and teacher, Deb often assisted independent bookstores with literary events so moving to the other side of the counter was a natural transition. She has always believed in the power of community which is beautifully realized within the walls of indie bookshops. This is especially true in the heart of Edgemont Village where 80% of the small businesses are owned by women.
Are you a reader?
I was fortunate to be surrounded by books as a child and could often be found long after lights-out reading by flashlight under the covers. Reading is truly the gift that keeps on giving throughout the course of one’s life and my one small regret is that there isn’t time to read all the wonderful books that find their way onto my shelves.
Favourite/most memorable book? Favourite author, genre?
This is always a tricky question… My list of “favourites” grows and changes often.
Here are a few of them, some old, some new: Wizard of Oz by L.Frank Baum … A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry … Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell … Adventures in Solitude by Grant Lawrence … The Long Hello by Cathie Borrie … The Plover by Brian Doyle … Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders … Warlight by Michael Ondaatje … Washington Black by Esi Edugyan.
What’s the philosophy behind your business?
To provide a place to connect… for readers and writers, artists and appreciators, members of our community and beyond, our staff and customers, kids and dogs.
Words and art and beautiful things made by hand. These are what make our world go around.
What is your biggest inspiration in life or in your job? What do you enjoy most about your work?
When I lived on Vancouver Island I spent many hours at the Bookstore on Bastion Street in Nanaimo where proprietor Thora Howell had created the quintessential independent bookstore. Thora hosted many, many authors over the years and her shop was full of her wonderful energy and love of books. I tucked all those good memories away in case I had the opportunity to open my own store at some point.
My life inspiration comes from my family and friends who have believed in this sometimes challenging pursuit from the beginning.
Beyond that, the answer to #3 above says it all.
Do you have a special message to share with the neighbourhood or community?
There are some days when running a bookstore seems like a larger challenge that what I can manage. Then a customer comes in and we talk… books, dogs, politics, art, life. Often I hear a simple “thank you for being here”. And any doubt is gone, replaced by gratitude for all of the wonderful humans (customers, staff, authors, reps, artists) who have supported this little shop for so many years.
Do you have a funny story about your business? How do you make your work day fun?
Funny story…. I was talking to a regular customer one day about what each of us were reading. Her husband (also a regular) was sitting in the big armchair close by. He was asking where was Jem, our little bookstore dog. I said she was wandering about somewhere and I casually leaned over and presented him with the bowl of dog treats so he could lure her over for a pat. His wife and I continued our animated book conversation and then we heard him say, “This tastes just awful!” Needless to say, neither one of us could stop laughing for quite some time.
Our workday is always different and that creates its own sense of wonder and fun… books and cards and lovely things arrive every day.
We stock a lot of funny greeting cards and not a day goes by when we find ourselves laughing along with customers who take great delight in perusing the selections.
Our staff is not only smart and well-read and friendly… they are funny too!
Tell us about yourself and family (kids, pets, other involvement in the community).
My husband and I both grew up on the North Shore and have raised our three wonderful kids here and for a short time, on Vancouver Island. Two of our other family passions include spending time at our cabin on Hornby Island and cruising the coast on our classic tug boat, La Fille, which we continue to refurbish. The story of our tug is included in Tiny Homes: Wheels and Water by Lloyd Kahn.
Any additional information you would like to share?
The arts (words, craft, music, art) is the lens by which we can more completely understand our world and often what makes our world a more beautiful place. I applaud all of the artists, booksellers, educators, librarians, gallery owners and their supporters who continue to champion the arts in spite of the lack of government support for the same. There are many wonderful things happening out there. I encourage you to find them, enjoy them, create them.
What types of books are people reading these days? Is that different from when you first opened the bookshop?
People are reading a wide variety of books, as they always have. Many of our customers belong to book clubs and this is reflected in the fact that our best-selling genre is fiction. Biographies, current affairs, teen, history and inspiration aren’t far behind. Our mystery section is stocked with interesting characters and smart psychological thrillers — our well-read customers seek a more sophisticated story than what is typically offered in this area.
An enthusiastic interest in Canadian literature is the area that has grown the most in my time as a bookseller, perhaps encouraged by our specific Canadian literature section, appreciated by both locals and visitors from afar.
Not sure what to read next… just ask us. We read the books we sell!
The complete version of this interview is available in the Neighbours of Edgemont, Nov 2018