Friends and customers help Toronto bookstore move across the street
A Different Booklist enlisted volunteers to carry its inventory across Bathurst St. to a new home.
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“Careful, this one’s really heavy,” said a helper as he handed a box full of books to one of the volunteers waiting outside A Different Booklist.
After 22 years in the same location, the store that specializes in books from the African and Caribbean Diaspora moved to its new home across Bathurst St. on Saturday – with the help of a parade of friends and patrons carrying boxes of books.
The day began with the group of friends and community members singing Lift Every Voice and Sing outside the bookstore’s bright green exterior.
Then, in the sub-zero temperatures, an assembly line of people carried their cargo to their new home in boxes with labels like “FICTION” and “HARDCOVER CHILDREN.”
Friends of the bookstore came from as near as across the street and as far as Orangeville, Mississauga, Oakville and Scarborough.
“Initially we didn’t know what this was,” said Erika Rogstad, a 19-year-old student at the nearby Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, who was passing by with her friends and heard they needed volunteers.
“We just wanted to help out and do our part,” she said.
“It’s about the only bookstore you can learn about black history in Toronto,” said Tom Power, a longtime patron of A Different Booklist.
“We’ve come to a time now where things have gone digital and technological, but there’s still something to be said about the world written on paper and because bookstores serve also as a community hub and a place of people’s expression, bookstores have come full circle again,” said Itah Sadu, who has co-owned the store for the past 18 years with her husband, Miguel San Vicente.
The move was prompted by plans to redevelop the Honest Ed’s site, which left the store’s former home slated for demolition.
“When we were thinking about where to move and how to move, there were many options on the table,” said Sadu. “And then sometimes we can travel all across the world to look for the diamond, but some times the diamond is right in your backyard.”
Around 150 people bundled up and helped out with the move, Sadu estimated.
“The experience of the bookstore is an organic one, where people have come and they have imagined the space to be a home to express themselves for the visual arts, for theatre for film, for literacy, mentorship, getting married, having birthday parties, having children,” said Sadu.
Inside, the familiar space felt smaller with its shelves emptied, said patrons, a sharp contrast to the not-yet-finished new location, a large space with cement floor, bare white walls, exposed ducts and large windows looking out onto the street at the former location.
The new bookstore will be home to a cultural centre as well, which will have a stage, multipurpose area and research area.
“It is emotional going from this cozy space that you’ve known for the past 20 years but at the same time it’s super exciting,” said LaShawn Murray, 24, a member of the bookstore’s leadership.
The new bookstore and cultural centre will be up and running “as soon as possible,” she added.
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