In 2012, Ottawa lost three independent booksellers: Nicholas Hoare (purveyor of British books), Mother Tongue Books (feminist book collective) and Collected Works (beloved community bookstore). These independents didn’t just sell beautiful books–they nurtured a sense of community, created jobs, and enriched our urban areas.
A moment of silence, please.
So I was happy to discover (thanks to my bibliophile sister) a wonderful new second-hand bookseller, Black Squirrel Books & Tea, which is now celebrating its one-year anniversary.
Black Squirrel feels very much like a small neighbourhood bookstore you’d find in New York City. Located at 508 Bank Street, in the heart of downtown Ottawa, it’s a welcome addition to the streetscape of this long-neglected part of town.
I immediately fell in the love with the place. Who can resist a comfy couch in the window to invite flipping through books with the sun on your back? Not to mention their inviting logo – a fuzzy black squirrel with its nose in a book?
Once inside, Black Squirrel sets the perfect tone for a bookstore: it is organized, clean and friendly, with knowledgeable staff, a resident cat, and just enough quirkiness to make this a fun book-browsing experience. They specialize in academic non-fiction, but there is something for everyone here — whether you like vintage, antiquarian, best sellers, classics or poetry — and for every budget.
In my two-hour stint at the store, I noticed that Black Squirrel attracts a lot of students (it is located between two large universities), urban dwellers, as well as regulars like my sister who happily drive in from another part of town to check out their selection every month.
I always raid the children’s lit section when I enter a second-hand bookstore, and though Black Squirrel’s selection here is small, it is more than adequate. I found some real treasures to take home to my littlest reader. I love adding to our vintage Nancy Drew collection:
I have my eye on a few other books…so I am looking forward to my next visit.
Our morning was capped off nicely by a visit next door to Ada’s Diner (now with new owners and a new name, “Wilf and Ada’s”, and equally wonderful).
If you’re still in the mood for browsing, check out second-hand The Book Bazaar, which is within walking distance of the Black Squirrel.
Looking for new books? Well folks, if you’re talking indies, there are only five left in Ottawa that I know of: Perfect Books, Books on Beechwood, La Librairie du Soleil (French literature), Octopus Books (books for the left-of-centre), and Kaleidoscope Books (Ottawa’s only children’s bookstore).
Let’s use them, or we’ll lose them.
UPDATE: Good news! Black Squirrel Books has opened a second location in Old Ottawa South (across from the Mayfair Theatre).