The Nicholas Hoare mini-chain of independent bookstores, famous for its high-quality selection and tastefully appointed decor, is preparing to close its Ottawa and Montreal retail locations in April, sources in the book industry say.
The imminent closings also throw into question the future of Hoare's Toronto outlet, which opened in the city's historic St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood in October, 1990. Should it close, that would effectively spell the end of the three-store business.
Mr. Hoare, when contacted on Tuesday at his Montreal office to confirm or deny reports of the shut-downs, replied: "You won't get either. You're about 48 hours or 72 ahead of the curve. We're still cleaning up the fine ends and bits and pieces that we've got down here. You're just one step ahead of the posse."
Mr. Hoare indicated he would be able to talk more fully by the end of this week.
A native of Britain, Mr. Hoare arrived in Montreal in the late 1960s, establishing himself as a book wholesaler there in 1971. He opened an eponymous store in downtown Montreal in 1988 (closing it in late 2006), then another in Westmount. It was this outlet that New Yorker writer and former Montrealer Adam Gopnik called "my favourite bookstore in the world" last year.
The Ottawa store opened in 1994 in a historic Sussex Drive property owned by the National Capital Commission. Calls to the commission as well as the landlord of the Toronto property for comment were not returned.
Closings have become a fact of life in Canada's independent bookstore sector. Hurt first by the appearance of the Chapters chain in 1994, then Indigo Books and Music's takeover of Chapters in 2001, more recently the independents have had to contend with discounters such Amazon.ca and Toronto's BMV Bookstores, as well as steady growth in the e-book/e-reader market. It's been estimated that nearly 400 independent Canadian bookstores have closed in the past 10 years.