Women-owned independent bookstores in Ontario

For more than 40 years, the Toronto Women’s Bookstore was a leader in feminist literature in Canada

From 1972 to 2012, the Toronto Women’s Bookstore survived three moves and a fire that destroyed some of their inventory. Ultimately, the store faced financial issues in 2012 from which they could not recover.

Then came a final statement on the store website. “The fact is book markets have changed radically in the past few years,” said owner Victoria Moreno. 

“E-books, fierce online competition and a stagnant economy have all contributed to our business model becoming no longer sustainable. I’m closing the bookstore with the bittersweet knowledge that I did my best. I gave everything I had; physically, emotionally, and financially,” she wrote.

Other feminist bookstores in Canada that opened in the 70s have also had to close their doors. Canada’s only remaining self-identified feminist bookstore, L’Euguélionne, is located in Montreal. 

Women-owned feminist bookstores are more than a place to buy books. They’re a community centre where women can gather and connect.

Anjula Gogia, the former co-manager of the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, said the work the store did was unique and important.

“We took a very integrated approach to feminist issues. It wasn’t just feminist, it was anti-racist, pro-sex worker, pro-trans,” she said.

Gogia is the current events coordinator for Another Story, an independent bookstore in Toronto. She said that independent, women-led bookstores have helped fill the gap that Toronto Women’s Bookstore left behi

“Another Story is not an explicitly feminist bookstore,” she said. “It very much is [feminist] in terms of its work and the kinds of books we sell. That’s why I work here.”

Gogia added “When I wanted to go back into bookselling, this was one of the few places I wanted to work. The politics were so similar to the work that I had done.”

Here is a list of bookstores across Ontario that are women-owned and have feminist books and events.

Another Story Bookshop, Toronto
315 Roncesvalles Ave
Founder: Sheila Hoffman

Another Story Bookshop has been around since 1987, when social activist Sheila Koffman opened the store. Koffman worked to create a place to highlight work by women writers, especially LGBTQ+ women and women of colour. Her three passions of equity, diversity, and social justice are the motivation behind Another Story’s success.

In 2017, Koffman passed away from cancer at the age of 72. The store has since continued in her name and family.

Another Story promotes books that reflect the diverse communities in Toronto. Half of their inventory consists of children and young adult books.

Alongside their book sales, Another Story has book fairs and literary events hosted by events coordinator Anjula Gogia.

You can order any of Another Story’s books online and have them shipped to your home.

Type Books, Toronto
2887 Dundas St W, 883 Queen St W, 427 Spadina Rd
Owners: Samara Walbourn and Jo Saul

Fifteen years ago, Samara Walbourn and Jo Saul decided to start a new independent bookstore in Toronto. The two women now own three Type Books locations across the city.

Their stores’ selections range from the latest releases to feminist literature and cultural studies.

Type Books also has their mystery bag initiative. First, you can take a fun online quiz about your favourite genres and reading habits. Then their staff selects four to five books for you. 

All of Type Books’ products are available to purchase online and can be shipped to your home.

Octopus Books, Ottawa
116 Third Avenue
Owner: Lisa Greaves

Octopus Books opened in 1996. The store’s origins go back to 1969, when the Octopus Books literary collective was formed.

Today you can find a selection of books on feminism, gender, family, politics, sustainability, philosophy, pop culture and science.

Besides books, Octopus Books organizes 50-60 events per year. The events align with their value statement of being “an anti-oppressive bookstore that supports the liberation of all community members.” Octopus Books’ titles are available to purchase online.

Epic Books, Hamilton
226 Locke St. South
Owner: Jaime Krakowski

Jaime Krakowski left her full-time job 12 years ago to follow her dream of opening a bookstore. Epic Books opened shortly after.

Since then, the store has succeeded in selling books for people of all ages. They have sections like Black Lives Matter, Celebrate Pride, and National Indigenous History Month.

Epic Books also hosts virtual events throughout the year, featuring authors like Thomas King and Ashley Audrain.

Epic Books’ stock is available to browse and purchase online.

The Book Keeper, Sarnia
500 Exmouth Street
Owner: Susan Chamberlain

The Book Keeper has been around since 1980. The majority of their stock is fiction, autobiography and YA fiction. They also have titles in philosophy, psychology, travel, pop culture and science.  

The store also has their own book club. Started in 2018, the book club is now online and meets every second Tuesday. 

The Book Keeper’s stock is available to browse and purchase online.

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