Pages' Books and Magazines : Featured Content 
The Toronto Star reports the news of Pages closing.


Turning Pages, reluctantly

Queen St. W. store trading in art books and other specialties set to close Aug. 31
Jul 10, 2009 04:30 Am

Vit Wagner


There are cheerier ways to mark a 30th anniversary than by going out of business, but that is the prospect facing Pages Books if the eternally hip Queen St. W. independent bookseller can't find a new location by the end of August.

Owner Marc Glassman, who founded the store in 1979, cites escalating rents as the reason for his decision to close the store on Aug. 31, adding that a two-year search for an alternative home has turned up nothing.

"It's not like I'm closing because I want to close," said Glassman, 59. "Obviously, if a white knight on a charger magically showed up and gave me a beautiful space somewhere, of course I'll keep the store going."

Pages, which has 10 employees, is losing money, with a rental and property tax outlay of about $250,000 a year. That could rise by 30 per cent or more when the lease expires at the end of next month. Glassman negotiated a six-month extension on the lease earlier this year, figuring the delay and the expected downturn in the economy might buy enough time to land a new location.

"With the recession coming in, it seemed a reasonable assumption on my part that I would find something. And it hasn't happened," said Glassman, who doesn't fault landlord Pinedale Properties for charging what the market will bear. "There hasn't been much of an economic downturn in Toronto, which is great, but the reality is that landlords aren't lowering their rents."

Pages survived the Chapters/Indigo box-store tsunami of the 1990s that washed away a raft of independent booksellers, including Edwards, Britnell's, Longhouse, the Book Cellar and others. Although the store sells contemporary fiction and non-fiction, as well as popular magazines, its stock in trade is small press publications, cultural theory studies, books on contemporary art and other subjects outside the mainstream.

"We're a major player in the Toronto book industry for the kinds of things we represent," said Glassman, who also edits the film periodicals POV and Montage.

"It has been very much about the unique product mix. It's still a very lively space, so it's kind of frustrating to see that the numbers don't work."

The departure of Pages would leave art book lovers in an even greater quandary, after Mirvish Books closed its Markham Village outlet this year to operate exclusively online. Ballenford Books, which specialized in titles on architecture, also closed this year.

Glassman has scoured an area bounded by Parkdale in the west, Leslieville in the east, King St. in the south and College St. in the north. And, he said, he is willing to look beyond those parameters if he can find a space big enough to host literary and other artistic events.

As it stands, the Pages-sponsored This is not a Reading Series, a literary soirée that meets regularly at the Gladstone Hotel and other locations, will survive the store's closing.

"If you had great cultural events happening on a regular basis, then you could imagine moving into an area that maybe isn't so obvious because you would at least get people to come in the evening," Glassman said.

One thing he isn't interested in is opening a generic, run-of-the-mill bookstore.

"That's not what Pages has been about. That's not what I've been about. I know it sounds crazy to say this, but I opened the store because I loved books. I never had a business plan. And I'm lucky I didn't because, if I did, it probably never would have happened."