Inside The Book Man
Nestled in the heart of Downtown Chilliwack is a quaint used bookstore, The Book Man. More than just selling used books, they’ve created a home within their store. With personal touches at every turn, The Book Man is an adventure beginning to end. Any open wall space is filled with fan art of their delightful cat, Nietzsche, who also has his own paw stamp and bookmarks. If you explore deep enough into their stacks you’ll uncover a cozy nook with comfortable armchairs, welcoming visitors to sit down and sample a book or to sort through their mountain of findings. And if you’re just popping in to drop off a bundle of used books, then be sure to say hi to David, the Book Man himself. You might be lucky enough to catch him sharing one of the captivating stories from his past.
TFV: Who joined us for the shoot and tell us a bit about each of your roles?
AP: Amber Price. Being the owner of The Book Man is both a fabulous challenge and privilege. I am an entrepreneur in my heart, and love seeing a vision come to reality. I was the driving force of bringing technology to our small business, and it has revolutionized the way that our bookstore has run.
David Short, better known as “The Book Man” is our head curator and scout for our collection. His eye for delicious books is unparalleled, and he is truly passionate about sharing odd and fun finds with our clients.
TFV: What was the defining moment that started The Book Man?
AP: My father was a practical nurse on the Children’s Ward at Chilliwack General Hospital. They made the decision to move to Registered Nurses, and my father was going to be repurposed to a different job. Given that helping children was his passion, he decided that it was time for a career change, and right at that time, Erna’s Book Nook had come up for sale. My mother and him took the plunge, liquidated some investments, and the first inception of our store was born.
TFV: How has The Book Man evolved over time?
AP: We are always getting better. Our software is always being improved upon and developed as we evolve and learn from our experiences. We house almost 100 years of bookstore experience between all of our staff members and we put that wisdom and knowledge to good use. Including everyone in our growth means that everyone benefits from our collective knowledge. Forward thinking growth, exploration of new product lines that accompany our awesome collection of books and sharing our story via social media keep our business moving, changing and vibrant.
By introducing technology to The Book Man we’ve improved the processes that we’ve run for decades at our stores. Custom built software manages our client request lists and accounts, and our entire inventory is carefully databased by a conscientious team. We feel like magicians when we’re able to find a single title out of the hundreds of thousands of books in our stores within a single database search. Minutes later our book loving customers are walking out with that gem, and technology makes that a simple process for our staff.
We’ve come a long way since the days of listing our books on dial up internet. By selling used books online, we’ve mailed tens of thousands of books to customers all over the world and have an entire department dedicated to online sales and data entry.
TFV: Can you tell us about your team and what you guys do?
AP: Our team specializes in minutiae. By making the details important, and paying close attention to them we have created a unique, perfect bookstore experience. We put passion into the little things, and as a result our larger business model sings a particularly pleasing song.
Little items like our complimentary Scotch peppermints at our front counters all carry a story; they have been a tradition in the history of our bookstore since 1963 and we continue to bring them in for our clients.
Our book labels are exclusive to our bookstores. Every detail, right down to the specific type of glue used on them was thoughtfully created with over a year and a half of research and development going into them. The result are outstanding labels that will not damage books over time.
The Book Man creates a unique reality for book lovers every day. Over two dozen staff specialize in all kinds of roles to bring our clients the best. From Sara’s displays, to Erin’s data entry, Amanda’s 17 years of attending to our online clients to The Book Man himself (Dave) lovingly restoring books to their best self, we all bring our best to the bookstores every day. They are intelligent, unique, hardworking and passionate individuals who treat our clients with respect, care and attention and it’s awesome to get to ‘play bookstore’ with them every day.
TFV: What is your hope for people after they’ve experienced coming to your store?
AP: We hope that they leave with a sense of peace and purpose. We hope that their treasures help them to learn, grow, relax and expand their minds. It’s a wonderful experience to know that you’ve connected people with potentially life changing books, and that you’ve helped people invest in self care; that quiet experience of curling up with a good book is so restorative.
TFV: We joined you at your flagship store in Chilliwack, what it is like having a second location in Abbotsford?
AP: Opening our second branch in Abbotsford in 2011 was our first foray into our vision of building a chain of bookstores. It has been a wild success and we’re looking forward to doing it again. Even though our Abbotsford staff is almost a quarter of the size of our flagship store in Chilliwack, they are able to draw on our inventory and data entry team’s ability to fill requests. By using a larger inventory to feed into our secondary store nobody misses out, even though the Abbotsford store is smaller by comparison.
TFV: Approximately how many books have you read in the past year?
AP: I always have several books on the go. I favour a wide variety of topics, but hone in on self improvement books, apocalyptic/dystopian fiction and indulge in Brit Lit when I’m feeling like I need a story where everything works out in the end.
TFV: Who is the furry friend that decided to join us for our shoot?
AP: Nietzsche is our resident cat at The Book Man. He has been with us for many years, and has definitely become famous. He is on the cover of a recently published book out of New York entitled “Bookstore Cats”, has his own book bags, original artwork done of him, has starred in several calendars and has been featured in blogs and newspaper articles. We will be releasing a limited edition enamel pin of him in the next couple of months.
TFV: Where in the Valley is your favourite place to read?
AP: I am a fan of reading in bed. Nothing beats curling up under the cozy covers with a cup of tea, some chocolate and a good book.
Fiction or Nonfiction?
While I love reading non-fiction for self improvement, fictional stories have a way of drawing you into another world that cannot be beat. Parable is the most effective way to teach larger life lessons, and the characters of my favourite books are a part of me; I have learned from their struggles, and gained wisdom from their adventures.
Romance or Adventure?
I’d take adventure over romance any day of the week. I love the grit and courage that characters have to muster to overcome the odds.
Comics or Novels?
While we have a lots of graphic novel and comic book fans on staff, I prefer novels. Perhaps it’s because I prefer my own imagery.
TFV: If you could recommend one place in the Fraser Valley, what would it be? And why?
AP: I move with my heart and respond to emergent needs in our community. From helping a Syrian family relocate to Chilliwack to fundraising for organizations such as the Chilliwack Learning Society, I like to focus my skill-set on causes that awaken my soul. I serve on boards, task groups and committees of organizations that are dedicated to improving the lives of people (and cats) in our community.
TFV: If you were a destination, where would you be?
AP: I believe that The Book Man is Book Heaven. We are aglow with perfect organization, a beautifully curated collection and staff who truly love what they do. All we need are a few fluffy clouds for customers to lie down on with a good book, and we’d be set.
We had clients on vacation in Spain, and they found one of our books at a little bookshop there. Despite having no interest in the title, they purchased it and brought it ‘home’ to us, delighted to tell us the story of their discovery. In a way, it’s like our books are spawning salmon – heading out into the world, and slowly making their way back to us, bringing new friends as people bring other books from home to trade into our bookstores for new ones. Sometimes books are ‘gone’ for a week or two, other times, a decade or more will pass before they make their way back to us to be relisted and reshelved. They patiently await their next discovery, their new ‘owner’ to find them and bring them home, to glean their secrets and then once again, make their way back to us.
Next time you’re strolling the streets of Downtown Chilliwack, looking for something to do in Abbotsford, or just on the hunt for a good read, be sure to check out The Book Man. Its charming space is filled floor to ceiling with thousands of hand-selected, gently read books. Making it the perfect place to browse and find your next favourite novel.