Yet another iconic Canadian bookstore is set to close its doors. What’s uncommon about this one is that it’s the federal government that apparently pushed one of the locations over the edge. Just after Christmas, Nicholas Hoare, owner of three namesake bookstores, received a letter from the National Capital Commission (NCC) warning there would be a rent increase for the shop on Ottawa’s Sussex Drive: a 71 per cent rent hike, non-negotiable. Hoare was shocked by what he calls a “tactless” and “rude” notice. “We consulted with the staff, and quickly realized we simply couldn’t afford it,” he says. The NCC has explained its new rent fee based on the property’s higher market value.
Hoare has been an independent bookseller specializing in British books for 40 years, his first shop opening in Montreal in 1971. He calls his stores “the Gucci of booksellers,” catering to a high-end clientele that relishes rare books and enjoys the stores’ knowledgeable staff and handmade furniture. Soon after receiving the NCC letter, however, Hoare feared it was just a matter of time before his Montreal location would also face higher rent, since the Westmount store building had just changed owners. That, coupled with “$40,000 in municipal taxes [a year] that have little to do with Westmount and more with the mismanagement of this town,” he says, prompted him to shutter that location, too. Where other iconic stores like the Book Mark in Toronto or Vancouver’s Duthie Books have closed blaming e-books and discount retailers, Hoare blames his stores’ misfortunes on “narrow-minded” government and landlords. Still, Hoare plans to expand his Toronto location to make up for closing Ottawa and Montreal.