From confectionery to second-hand bookstore, Bay Used Books is approaching 50 years and hopes to pass it on to the next generation.
The Sudbury family business was started in New Sudbury by Anne Bouffard’s father.
“We lived in North Bay and my dad wanted to own his own business, so he bought a candy store on Lasalle Boulevard in 1975,” Bouffard said.
“He started turning the candy store into a second-hand bookstore…So as the books came out, the groceries kind of disappeared and eventually it was just a bookstore.”
In the early 1980s Bay Used Books set up a secondary location on Elm Street, where it still stands. Bouffard owns the store with her husband.
She bought it from her parents when they were ready to retire, but added that they both come regularly to browse the shelves and reminisce. Bouffard can understand.
“Even when I was 13 or 14, I loved helping people and it’s part of my nature, I think,” she said.
She also enjoys giving recommendations and helping customers find new books to read based on what they’ve already enjoyed.
On Wednesday, owner Anne Bouffard checks inventory at Bay Used Books. (Alana Pickrell/CTV News)
“It’s really fun to see new arrivals,” said employee Cory Gaudette, who has worked at the store for more than seven years.
“You can tell they’re beginners because the first thing they do is look straight up at the roof and you can see the feeling of amazement and being overwhelmed.”
Although there is a ton of variety, the staff know exactly where almost everything is. The owners said it was the largest used bookstore in northern Ontario and their slogan was “over half a million books”.
“It’s actually very well organized,” Gaudette said. “It’s organized by genre first, then alphabetized by author’s last name and we all have a pretty good idea of what’s in store.”
“I want to give the staff a little thank you because you can come here and ask anything and they’ll drag you through the building and find this book in the corner,” said loyal customer Sue Gates.
“I just remember one day I asked for one and they took me through the building, down, around – I mean I had to follow them because I wouldn’t have known how to get back to the front door.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for many businesses, it also meant people had more time to read, which led to more business for the store.
“I would say over 50% of our customers are loyal and dedicated readers and we see them almost every week,” Gaudette said.
Increase in the number of readers
“But since the pandemic, we’ve actually seen an increase in new readers — people who haven’t read since, like grade school or high school, and are expanding their horizons.”
“We have new customers coming in all the time, and when people come here, it’s not just to buy books,” Bouffard said.
“It’s to talk about books, to ask about books and I think what we’ve created with the customer service experience, I’m really, really proud.”
As for the future, Bouffard said the business would stay in the family.
“My son is only 21, so he’s starting a different career soon as a paramedic, but I think he’ll eventually want to take over the bookstore,” she said.
“I hope he stays in the family. And if he’s not my son, then maybe a niece or nephew will want to take him over.”