This post pays tribute to used and antiquarian bookshops (and their booksellers) which existed between 1970 and 2020 and are no longer operating in Vancouver. It will not include existing shops such as The Paper Hound, MacLeod’s, Albion, People’s Co-op, Lawrence, Stillman’s, Spartacus, Antiquarius, Michael Thompson, Wilkinson’s Automobilia*, etc. In order to qualify for inclusion in this post, the shops listed need to be out of business and to have been located within Vancouver’s city limits.
Each listing shows the shop’s name, the approximate dates it was in business (in decades), the shop’s proprietor (if known) and its address(es).**
A-Aabaca Book Bin (1970s-1980s) – Proprietor: Lloyd Cartwright. 1247 Granville. By 1988, it was purchased by Skip Mabee. See: Fraser Book Bin and ABC Book & Comic Emporium.
Aardvark Books (1970s-1980s) – Founder proprietor: Albert Eddy. Started in business ca 1971 at 4185 Main. By 1979, it was at 4331 Main. By 1982, ownership had changed to Fred Miller. By 1989, the name of the shop had changed slightly to Aardvark Books & Comics. There were several video machines in Aardvark by Miller’s time.
ABC Book & Comic Emporium (1990-2010s) – Louis “Skip” Mabee, proprietor. 1247 Granville. It was bought by Mabee in 1988 after it was sold a couple of times after Ted Fraser sold it. By ca2000, the shop had a date with re-developers and it was moved over to the east side of Granville (1200 block). Within a short time, it was moved yet again by Mabee to Broadway just west of Granville, where it remained until 2012. See: Fraser Book Bin.
Abraxas Books (1970s) – Proprietor unknown. 3210 Dunbar.
Acorn Books (1980s-1990s) – Don Stewart, proprietor. (Catriona Strang managed it for Stewart for about a year and then Renee Rodin took over). 321 W. Pender. Acorn was a low-end version of Stewart’s main shop, MacLeod’s Books.
Ahrens’ Books – John Ahrens (1960s-1980s), proprietor. The shop was located at 756 Davie. It had a reputation as a chaotic (book-wise) meeting place of book people.
Ainsworth Books (1930s-1990s) – A. J. Ainsworth established his shop at 321 W. Pender in 1939. He was the third generation of his family to be in the book business; he had learned the business from his father in England. A.J.A. died in 1950 at age 75. One of his daughters, Doreen Crombie, took over the business. Crombie sold the shop to Russ Cunningham in the 1980s. The shop continued under the Ainsworth name and at the same location until ca1995, when it apparently folded.
Arcanum Books (1990s-2000s) – Kevin Dale McKeown, proprietor. Was open in Vancouver from 1998-2006. Location: 317A Cambie Street (one of the retail spaces beneath the rooms of Danny’s Inn). Arcanum was originally opened in Burnaby in 1969 with Everett Foley, proprietor. It had several locations just east of Boundary on Hastings, the last being where Brown’s Books is today until McKeown bought the business and moved it to Vancouver. Specialties: Religion, philosophy, metaphysics, miscellaneous conspiracy theories and inexplicable phenomena.
Ashley’s Books (1990s-2000s) – Ashley Offill, proprietor. 3754 W 10th. Specialties: history, art, literature, psychology, eastern religion. See: Baehr Books.
Baehr Books (2000s) – Scot Baehr, proprietor. 3754 W 10th. Specialties: history, literature, art, psychology, science fiction.
Beland’s Bookshop (1970s) – Proprietor unknown. 3315 Kingsway (at Joyce). Specialties: pocket books, magazines, comics.
Belly Button Books and Novel Cafe (1980s-1990s) – Collectively owned, but according to his obituary, James C. Campbell was “very involved” in the business. He died of AIDS in 1994 and, from what I can tell, the bookshop didn’t outlive him by long. 109 W. Cordova. Generalist shop.
Better Buy Books (1960s-1990s) – Ron Webber, proprietor. 4393 W. 10th. A UBC-area source of used books. I recall finding many supplementary, out-of-print books there when I was working on my M.A. at UBC in the early 1990s.
Bidwell Books (1980s-1990s) – Dalia Sinius (later Dalia Dargis), proprietor. 824 Bidwell. This wee shop felt to me very much like a West End neighbourhood bookstore (at a time when the West End was more truly a neighbourhood). Specialties: architecture, boating, cooking, philosophy.
The Blue Heron (1980s-90s) – Alma McIntyre, proprietor (Stephen McIntyre‘s wife). At 8321 Oak St. in 1990. By 1992, at 3516-A Main. Specialty: books about antiques/collectibles. Not sure how long this shop lasted, but it hasn’t been in business for at least a decade. Alma McIntyre died in 2005.
Black Sheep Books (1990s) – Trent & Denise Highnell, (later, George Kroller), proprietors. 2742 W. 4th Ave. When Renee Rodin decided in 1994 to sell R2B2 Books Books, the Highnell’s bought it and renamed it Black Sheep Books. It was operated by them for 4 years, after which George Kroller bought it and ran it for another 3 years under the same name. Black Sheep’s specialties: alternative literature, poetry, drama.
Bond’s Bookshop (1930s-1990s) – A generalist shop run by Francis Carradice (originally) and later by Ed R. Bowes. In the 1930s, it was located at 575 Dunsmuir. Gordon Bowes bought the Dunsmuir shop and put his son, Ed (Ned) Bowes, in charge; he was then 20. By 1969, it had moved to 523 Dunsmuir. In the late ’70s, it had moved to 579 Richards. By the 1980s, it had moved to 319 W. Hastings. It was in business there until the early 1990s, I believe. Ed Bowes died on January 21, 2021; he was working as a book scout at the time of his death.
The Book Basket (1960s-1970s) – Ted Fraser. 1070 Robson.
The Bookends (1970s-90s) – Proprietors: Gwenne and Earle Huston. 937 Davie.
The Book Mantel (1990s) and Coffee Bar – Bonnie Murray, proprietor (1990); Cynthia Brooke (1994). At 1444 Kingsway (1990); 1002 Commercial Dr. (1994). Specialities: feminist lit, poetry, philosophy.
The Book Mantel (1980s-1990s) – Was co-owned by Frank Davis, who also owned Frank’s Records next door. The Mantel had two locations: one at 2551 Alma (near 10th Ave., approximately where Buntain Insurance is today); the other in Kerrisdale at 2065 West 41st. The shop seems to have closed ca1990. Davis died in 2017. Specialties: Classics, art, music, theatre, poetry, philosophy, natural history and science.
Busy ‘B’ (1920s-1970s) – George Biswanger, proprietor. The shop started in 1926 at 706 Seymour and advertised itself as selling “2nd hand goods”; books were not specified. It moved by 1927 to 540 W. Pender. By 1955, it had expanded to become two shops, both called “Busy B Book and [postage, presumbaly] Stamp” store at 445 W. Pender and 508 Richards. Biswanger died in 1966 (after which Don Duggan seemed to be proprietor, at least for awhile). Busy ‘B’ carried on through the mid-1970s; it seems finally to have folded by ca1975.
Carillon Books (1990s) – George Carroll, proprietor. 1926 W. 4th Ave. (1994). 822 Howe St. (1996). In 1998, the shop moved across the inlet to North Vancouver. I patronized Carroll’s Howe shop. I remember being on a Tchaikovsky kick in the late ‘80s and purchasing from his shop the full orchestral score of one of T’s piano concertos.
Chef Bell – the Cookbook Man (1980s) – Lionel J. Bell, proprietor. The shop was located at 335 W. Pender in 1982. In 1983, he moved his “2000 cookbooks” to 434 W. Pender. He custom-built bookshelves for this space which I’m certain are the ones still in Criterion Books, the succeeding shop in that space (which is now also defunct). Bell died in 1989.
Coho Books – Michael Baker, proprietor. 3211 Dunbar. General stock.
Collectors’ Books and Records (1980s-1990s) – David Grannis, proprietor (later, Andy Stone). 648 Kingsway.
Colophon Books (1980s-1990s) – James F. McIntosh, proprietor. This shop was located at 407 W. Cordova. It was an excellent general shop. I remember with fondness browsing through the stacks in his second-floor shop. McIntosh died in 2019.
Connoisseur Art Books (1980s-1990s) – Proprietor, Charles Anderson. 5957 W. Boulevard. Specialties: art, collectables.
Criterion Books (1990s-2000s) – Lance McCaughran, proprietor. 434 W. Pender. I suspect that the custom bookshelves in this shop were the same ones constructed by Lionel Bell when he owned Chef Bell Cookbooks at this location in the 1980s. McCaughran retired ca2015 and sold most of his general stock to Don Stewart (of MacLeod’s Books). Stewart took over the space as one of his book storage locations.
EP Books (1990s) – Ed Peasgood, proprietor. 4495 Dunbar. Specialties: mystery, children’s, Christian studies/spirituality.
Fahrenheit 451 Books (1980s) – Linda Stackhouse, proprietor. Specialties: Literature, Sci-Fi.
Evelyn’s Book Shelf (1950s-1970s) – 3075 W. Broadway. This was the self-proclaimed “largest bookshop in Kitsilano“ during its time. That claim was probably quite exaggerated. See comment below from Gordon Watson. I have had Gordon’s general impressions confirmed (privately) by someone else.
A. H. Falstaff Books (1970s) – Co-owned by William Hoffer and Van Andruss. 4529 W. 10th Ave. The shop opened in 1972 and closed after a year.
The Fiction Co. (1990s) – Gordon McRae, proprietor. 425 Abbott. Generalist shop.
Fraser Book Bin (1940s-1970s) – Ted Fraser, proprietor. 6184 Fraser; also at 1247 Granville. The 1247 Granville location first became Fraser’s in 1946. In 1963, Fraser and his manager were charged with “possession of obscene material for the purpose of publication, distribution or circulation.” Fraser appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, but was ultimately convicted and fined $3,400. Skip Mabee took over the 1247 Granville site in 1988 and changed the name from A-Aabaca Book Bin (the interim name of the shop between Fraser’s and Mabee’s proprietorships) to the ABC Book & Comic Emporium.
Fraser Book Bin (No. 2) (1990s) – Brian Wright & Gerri Ironsides, proprietors. 4750 Main. By 1996, the name of the shop had changed to Fraser Books.
Margaret Gabriel, Bookseller (1990s) – 3036 W. Broadway. Gabriel ‘packed it in’ with a closing out sale in 1995. Specialties: religions of the world, children’s, and 12-step books.
Hermit Books (1990s-2000s) – Sharon & Eileen Hansen, proprietors. 2509 W. Broadway. Specialties: poetry, eastern and western religion/philosophy, fine arts, women’s studies.
William Hoffer Books (1960s-1990s) – Hoffer (1944-1997) had his first bookshop on Water Street in Gastown in 1969 while he was an SFU student (Province 25 Oct 1969). Hoffer had a shop at 3293 Dunbar, briefly, in the early ’70s. In the mid-1970s, he opened a shop with Van Andruss called Falstaff Books, at 4529 W. 10th Ave. His fourth location was on the second floor (#104) of 570 Granville (in retail space directly above The Love Shop). His final bookselling location was at 58/60 Powell St. Hoffer had a reputation as a ‘difficult’ person. But he could be charming and generous as well. He left Vancouver and his book selling business for Russia. He married Marsha there (his first wife was Pat; they parted company in the early 1970s). Hoffer died on Vancouver Island from lung cancer. There is an amusing Hoffer quote that pertains to his Dunbar shop: “It was an unnerving experience, trying to operate a bookshop in a largely working class neighbourhood in a short terrace of shops. Across the street there was a small cafe, the owner of which had a son who had been aboard an alien space craft. Very few people came into the shop, but occasionally I would notice faces pressed like snails’ feet against the plate glass windows.” (From Hoffer’s book catalogue, STIGMA #80).
Below are the full text of three of Hoffer’s less readily available articles written in the mid-1980s for the Alcuin Society in their Amphoras 56, 58, and 59 and titled “Letter from a Bookseller” in which he reflects upon his early years in bookselling. Many thanks are due to Richard Hopkins for supplying these seemingly scarce issues of Amphora:
Hummingbird Books (1970s) – Proprietor: Albert Eddy (the same person who founded Aardvark Books ca1971). 337 W. Pender (second floor) starting in ca1978.
Kirkwood’s Fine Used Books (1990s-2000s) – Carol Kirkwood, proprietor. Was established in Marpole in about 1994 at 8662 Granville. By 2000, it became Characters Fine Books and Coffee Bar and moved to the west side of Granville at 8419 Granville.. The shop ultimately was the victim of high rent charged by the landlord and they called it quits ca2008. I lived in Marpole when Carol Kirkwood started Kirkwood’s Books and I faithfully returned to the neighbourhood shop after it became Characters (and we’d moved to Burnaby).
Kitsilano Bookstore (1970s) – Proprietor unknown. 2887 and 3075 West Broadway. Their tag line was “Books for all of the family.”
Reginald Lissel, Bookseller (1990s) – 434 Homer. Specialties: science fiction and literature.
Stephen C. Lunsford – 341 W. Pender. #711 – 207 W. Hastings. Specialties: Western Canadiana/Americana.
Stephen McIntyre Books (1940s-1980s) – Was involved in the used/antiquarian book trade from the 1930s until his death from lung cancer in 1984. Initially, he was a book scout, but by the 1940s, he was a book dealer. The first of his shops of which I am aware was at 340-B Cambie; where the 340 Pub is today. In the 1970s, he was at 833 Davie. Later, he moved to a shop at 319 W. Pender. He traded in the occult and science fiction, but was best known as a generalist.
Makara Books (1990s) – Barbara Draskoy, proprietor (later Barbara Stefan). 2868 W. 4th. Specialties: metaphysical and oriental philosophy. It closed in 1992.
William Matthews, Bookseller (1980s) – His shop was at 434 W. Pender in the early ’80s, presumably before Lionel Bell took over the space in 1983. Bill was Terry Rutherford‘s business partner in the 1970s. He has been on Vancouver Island for several years. He recently bought The Haunted Bookshop in Sidney.
Brendan M. Moss, Esq. (1980s-2000s) – Moss was formerly an auctioneer. He had an antique map and print shop. In 1986, his shop was at 402 W. Pender (#804). In the late 1980s, the shop was at 101 W. Pender. By 1990, the shop had moved to a basement unit at 332 Water Street (formerly, Cloth Hall; today known better as (Le Magasin). I am not certain when his Water Street shop closed, but was probably ca2005.
Murray’s Books (1950s-1980s) – Murray Hughson, proprietor. 856 Granville (1954-1974). Hughson died in 1971. The shop carried on for about a decade after his death under the management of Peter C. Lawrence. The shop moved to 942 Granville in 1974 due to high rent. It closed in late 1980.
The Mystery Merchant Bookstore (1990s) – Proprietor: Christa Pritchard. 1952 W. 4th Ave. Specialties: Mystery, true crime, detective, espionage fiction (used and new).
Narnia Books (1990s) – David & Joanne Anderson. 5585 Dunbar. A small generalist shop with a specialty in Christian literature. I recall my wife finding a couple of unusual John Buchan-related items for me at Narnia.
Norris Books (1980s) – T. I. B. Norris. 420 W. Pender; later, Norris apparently moved to W. 4th Ave. at Alma. General Stock.
Octopus Books (1970s-1980s) – P. R. Brown (“Brownie) and Juils Comeault, proprietors. The two proprietors bought Octopus Books on the 2200 block of West 4th from Bill Fletcher in 1977. 2705 W. 4th Ave. Specialties: literature, journals. Comeault died in 1983 and shortly after that, Brownie sold West to Renee Rodin and poet Billy Little. The new owners changed the name of the shop (at the same address as West was at) to R&B Books.
Octopus Books East (1980s-1990s) – P. R. Brown (“Brownie) and Juils Comeault, proprietors. Brownie and Comeault bought this second store in 1980. Both East and West stores were popular literary and social centres. Comeault died in 1983 and Brownie decided to focus on Octopus East. It traded in used and new books and magazines and was a regular site of readings and workshops. Finally, after 17 years of running East, 11 years on her own, Brownie closed the shop in 1994. 1146 Commercial Drive. Regular poetry readings were held at Octopus Books. CVA has an hour-plus-long recording of one such reading in August 1987 at East; it is good way to get a flavor of the place.
Paul’s Books (1970s) – Proprietor unknown. Denman and Robson. Became the Sunset Book Exchange in mid-70s.
Richard Pender Books (1970s) – Van Andruss, proprietor. 445 W. Pender (1974); 438 Richards (1975-76). It appears to have closed ca1976.
Peregrine Books (1980s) – Proprietor unknown. 2932 West Broadway. Specialties: Feminist literature, children’s books.
Proprioception Books (1980s-1990s) – Ralph Maud started the store in the early 1980s (1956 W. Broadway) as a sort of replica of the library of poet, Charles Olson. Lisa Robertson (one of the poets featured on a CVA recording of a 1987 Octopus East bookshop poetry reading) bought the shop in 1988 and moved it to 432 Homer (1993). She closed the store in 1994 after the rent at her Homer location tripled in two years (this is a not-uncommon but disturbing theme among used bookshops and among small businesses generally in Vancouver). The term “proprioception” was a favourite of avant-garde poet, Charles Olsen, thus the name of the shop.
R&B Books; later R2B2 Books Books (1980s; 1990s) – Renee Rodin (and, for a year, with Billy Little), proprietor. Rodin and Little bought the former Octopus West store at 2250 W. 4th Ave. in 1985 and named it R&B Books. There was a bad fire at R&B at around Christmas of that year; the building was destroyed. The shop moved to a small space at 2742 W. 4th Ave. and changed the shop’s name to R2B2 Books Books to convey that it was R&B Books, ’round two’. Little left the store within the year and Rodin carried on until 1994. She sold the shop to Denise and Trent Highnell who renamed it Black Sheep Books. R2B2’s specialties: Art, poetry, literature. (See: https://bcbooklook.com/2008/03/13/bookselling-remembering-r2b2-a-na-f-s-story/)
Terry Rutherford (1990s) – She had her first Vancouver shop with Bill Matthews at the former location of Falstaff Books: 4529 W. 10th. This shop specialized in science fiction. Later, Rutherford worked at Star Treader Books. She later opened a mystery/detective shop at 432 Homer. She then moved to 415 W. Pender before leaving Vancouver for Port Moody where she took on a book and paper restoration business. She later moved to Eastern Canada where she continued her restoration business. Rutherford has recently moved back to B.C.
Secondo Music Store (1990s) – Chris Held, proprietor. 2744 W. 4th Ave. Used and out-of-print classical music and books on music.
Star Treader Books (1970s-1980s) – Was located in the mid-1970s at 4325 W. 10th. It was gone from there by ca1982, moving to 434 W. Pender. Its second location was taken over in ’83 by the shop run by Lionel Bell. Specialties: fantasy/science fiction.
Terminal City Books (1990s) – Judy Fraser, proprietor. 231 Main. Specialties: science, trades and mechanical books.
Charles H. Tupper (1980s) – 2868 West 4th Ave. Specialties: Fine arts, Canadiana, history, travel. This seems to have lasted from about 1987-1990.
We Call With Cash (1950s-1970s) – Proprietor unknown. The shop first appeared in 1955 Vancouver directory and continued at least until 1977. 3621 W. 4th Ave.
West Coast Books (1990s) – Richard Naster, proprietor. At 3209 W. Broadway. Later, near the 1100 block of Granville (east side). A generalist shop.
Joyce Williams (originally Bishop-Williams with Lois Bishop as JW’s partner) Antique Prints and Maps (1980s-2000s) – From 1984 and into the 1990s Williams had her shop at 346 W. Pender. Her shop later moved to Yaletown for a number of years before closing.
Y’s Books (2010s-2020) – Pam Townsend and David Gagne, proprietors. 4307 Main Street. Y’s opened 2013 on Main at 27th and seems to have succumbed to COVID in Spring 2020, closing its Vancouver space “indefinitely”. The shop was small, but it appears not to have had any specialties; it was a general shop. Shop closed February, 2020.
Yoga Vedanta Metaphsyical Bookstore (1960s-1970s) – Ursula Sylvia Hellmann (founder) and (later) William Balderstone, proprietors. The shop was apparently initially on Robson (opening sometime after 1957) and moved later to Georgia just east of Granville. Balderstone apparently did psychic readings on CFUN radio. Not sure what year it closed.
Zona Arq (or Arc) (1980s) – Proprietor unknown. Was located at Broadway & Alma. It lasted for 1-2 years in the 1980s.
*Wilkinson’s Automobilia (specializing in automotive-related books, magazines and shop manuals) has closed their Main St. warehouse, recently, given the COVID-19 pandemic. They have an online presence, however: https://www.eautomobilia.com/.
**Principal sources for the information in this post are various editions of Guide to the Secondhand & Antiquarian Bookstores of Greater Vancouver, The Province, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver News-Herald, and of course the City of Vancouver Archives photo database. I am appreciative of details provided by Kim Koch, Rod Clarke, Neil Whaley, Jason Vanderhill, Catriona Strang, Renee Rodin, Don Stewart, Kevin Dale McKeown, Angus McIntyre, Erwin Wodarczak, Peter Findlay, Joscelyn Barnard, Doug Sarti, Gary Sim, Bill Reimer, William V. Lee, and Don Young (who kindly gave me access to his stash of 1980s editions of the Guide to Secondhand and Antiquarian Bookstores as well as numerous pertinent newspaper clippings).