Bookland Vernon announced it will be closing in April on March 2, 2020, after more than 50 years downtown. (Google Maps)

Mitchell’s Musings: Turning the page on a downtown tradition

Bookland closure closes chapter in Vernon shopping experience

Upon hearing the news, I immediately phoned my father, or my old man as I sometimes call him just like he called his, well, old man.

He had already heard, reading it in the newspaper version of the Morning Star that day, and reassured me that the gift card for Bookland I had recently given him in honour of his 89th birthday would be cashed in before April when that store would be closing after more than 50 years service to the community.

Heavy sigh.

You see I have a fairly long past relationship with the locally owned and operated Bookland, and I was hoping for a future relationship as well.

I remember when it was located across from the old Greyhound depot (Eatology now) and as a kid I would buy my Hockey News or Archie Digests there and, if prodded by a more courageous friend, check out the girlie magazines in the back much to the chagrin of the employees, notably one named Rose.

It stayed there for a long time, next to a dry cleaner, I believe, and a racquetball facility, also owned by Tom Monahan.

A move to other premises across from its present location, when it moved into the former Eaton’s building. It seemed like a suitable replacement for one of my favourite stores growing up.

They even kept the same doors, opening to a warm, inviting atmosphere that has rows and rows of books and magazines that I loved spending time in, even thinking if I had to get locked in a place overnight, or longer, this would be the place.

Later on in college, I even went so far as to befriend Tom’s daughter Cindy just so I could get free books. Just kidding. It was actually for the magazines.

Heck, I was even gonna give Tom a call when my latest project, a book of my columns, was finally put together and beg for a book launch at Bookland.

Where else would I have it? Well, now, my basement I guess. There goes the ambience and more than a few sales.

When I was in buying the gift card and after perusing the shop’s wares for 20 minutes noticing the Sunday New York Times, the staff picks, the bestsellers and the Hospice Corner (which helped raise more than $50,000 over the years), I also noticed the puzzles and bought a Vincent Van Gogh painting for my wife for Valentine’s Day.

We started it but didn’t get too far, who knew 1,000 pieces meant don’t try this at home? So, if I can get my money back before you close, that would be great.

The first time I heard the term bricks-and-mortar was several years ago when I overheard a couple of mothers discussing why they home-schooled their kids.

At first, I didn’t get what they meant but then I realized they were putting down my kids’ public education as something about as old-fashioned as Little House On The Prairie.

Apparently, their kids’ mortarless education was cutting-edge and not encumbered by passe concepts like team sports, different points of view, recess and, well, bricks.

I told them my kids were happy with their schoolmarm and that having to fetch the water and chop the wood every day was actually good for them.

In retail, bricks-and-mortar means storefronts. And in the retail apocalypse, which may or may not be happening, e-commerce wipes out malls, downtowns and anywhere else where local people work, shop, eat, pay taxes, give to charities, greet each other and arrange for rides to hockey practice on teams and leagues, sponsored by that old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar enterprise.

I was marvelling recently at the Vernon Winter Carnival parade and the community involvement it took to pull it off. There was plenty of sponsorship from local businesses and charities and service clubs. Notable in their absence were Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix, Apple and even Costco and Walmart.

It’s the end of an era and likely the symbol of what’s to come as a beloved store picks up anchor and leaves behind a less vital downtown.

Which begs a bigger question. Where am I going to get a gift card for my old man’s birthday next year?

Glenn Mitchell is the former editor of the Vernon Morning Star.


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