To start, could you share with us your background, how you entered the world of rare books, and describe your business?
In my University years, I saw a "Help Wanted" sign in the window of a local antiquarian shop named Greenfield Books (which was happily situated beside the cute coffee shop where I was meeting friends). I applied, was hired by Michael Park, the man who would become my mentor. I came and went over the course of several years, and ultimately fell in love with the charms and challenges of the antiquarian book business. Bison Books was opened in 2000 as an 'outlet' for Greenfield Books' overstock. A decade or so later, I bought Bison Books and worked to increase the quality of the inventory. Eventually, I moved to a larger, more prominent location, and was encouraged by Michael to travel to fairs and engage in the ABAC; after his sudden passing, I purchased Greenfield Books. I now carry an inventory of around 15,000 books. We maintain a general inventory of good books to cater to a bustling over-the-counter and online trade, which supports the steadily-climbing proportion of antiquarian stock.
Could you provide us with a brief overview of the current state of the rare book trade in Canada, how has the trade evolved over the past few years and are there notable trends or changes that you believe are shaping the market for rare books?
I find the Canadian trade is booming! The last two Toronto Antiquarian Book Fairs have been a great success, according to customers, and exhibitors (a number of whom reported their best fairs ever). My shop is busy, and online orders are steady. As with any period of time, tastes have changed, and I buy different books than I would’ve a decade ago. I find that more young people are interested in books and collecting. They have noticeably shifted the demographics in my shop and at fairs, and they drive engagement in enthusiastic and like-minded online communities.
Given the demands and responsibilities of leading an association, what motivates and inspires you to dedicate your time and efforts to furthering the interests of antiquarian booksellers?
I think that what we do, stewarding knowledge through generations, is important work. ILAB and our national associations serve to support booksellers, helping them achieve greater success; it is an honour to have an opportunity to take my turn to help keep the wheels turning.
As a young and successful bookseller yourself, what advice would you give to aspiring booksellers or those looking to enter the profession in Canada and beyond?
In order to be successful in any business, you have to adapt to cultural and economic changes. It is important to be passionate and knowledgeable about books, and crucial that one complements this with business sense. Play to your strengths, remain curious, and always be open to learning new things.