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Former lawyer and self-proclaimed bibliophile Natalie Jenner has fulfilled a longtime dream of opening a bookstore with the launch of Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario.
Since opening its doors in mid-December, the bookstore has been busier than Jenner anticipated. She hopes to fill the void left by Bookers, a local indie that shut its doors in 2010. “They did a great job, it was a beautiful space. When it closed down, we really felt its absence,” she says. “People were bemoaning the fact that there was nowhere you could go and just browse with a coffee without necessarily even buying anything.”
The 450-square-foot store is tucked away behind Corks Restaurant, down a lamp-lit alley that Jenner describes as “Dickensian.” It took three weeks to prepare the shop for opening, with materials sourced for cheap or free from friends and family, including Archetype’s logo, designed by Jenner’s daughter.
Although she doesn’t have direct bookselling experience, Jenner – who has also worked as a human-resources manager and career consultant – plans to run and staff the store herself, devoted to keeping the low-key, amiable atmosphere at the heart of indie bookselling’s ethos.
“I almost feel like everything I’ve been doing in my life and in my career was building to this point because I’m using every single skill set I have,” she says. “There is always a face-to-face value, something about someone recognizing you and providing the service of saying, ‘I know what you would love based on what you just told me.’ And that’s missing. I go on Amazon and [the book suggestions] are almost always wrong because they don’t know what I love about a certain book. … I worry about my daughter’s generation – even though she’s a great reader at age 14 – and its love affair with technology continuing to usurp the pleasures of slowing things down and sinking into something. That’s kind of the vibe I’m trying to go for with my store.”