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The more gracious visitors to their new Queen West bookstore, Type, call Joanne Saul and Samara Walbohm "bold."

The blunt ones are just calling them crazy, for opening a pretty, independent bookstore in the era of the big box.

"We've heard the word 'courageous' four times today," Ms. Saul says. Good thing the neighbourhood started embracing Type weeks before the spot was ready, when it was merely a mystery behind a curtain. Now, it's a cozy, curated library, modelled as much on College Street's indie music mecca, Soundscapes, as on other non-Indigo bookstores.

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The library-issue shelves, in fact, were inspired by the University of Toronto stacks, where Ms. Saul, above, right, and Ms. Walbohm, left, spent a lot of time as CanLit PhD students. (Ms. Saul still teaches there.) The walls are stencilled in a Farrow and Ball pattern and the book bags for sale were designed by hipster Toronto silk-screener Virginia Johnson.

"People seem to have an appetite for it. They tell us they feel at home here," Ms. Walbohm says.

Both young mothers, they have made this a stroller-friendly store, with a hefty kids-lit section tucked in the back, complete with toy box and storytelling chair for parents. A gallery space is also being prepped beneath the store for art shows, book launches and other events. The shop owners know they're likely to run at a loss for a couple of years, but say they're buoyed by anti-big-box customers asking to special-order books that they could immediately buy elsewhere at a discount. There's a lot of competition out there, Ms. Saul notes, "so we appreciate that."

Type Books, 883 Queen St. W., 416-366-8973.

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More


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