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“With over 14,000 books packed wall to wall, floor to ceiling, in under 700 square feet, it’s a treasure trove; a dragon’s hoard of books as far as the eye can see, and a book lover’s dream.”

This fall, Black Cat Books in Sherbrooke, QC celebrated two anniversaries: 25 years in business and one year as owner for Anne-Marie Bailey. A hidden gem, the store is a small-yet-mighty space for exploration. We spoke with Anne-Marie about the process of becoming an indie bookseller, recent releases she can’t wait to read, and her vision for the future. 

You took over ownership in October of last year. Congratulations! How has the experience been so far?

Crazy! The whole purchasing process was a whirlwind. From the time I started considering the purchase seriously to the day I took over, was about 3.5 months. At the time it felt like things weren’t moving fast enough but, looking back, it was pretty quick!

I had no previous experience as a business owner or a bookseller, so I really feel like I’ve just been stumbling my way through the journey, especially on the business end of things. The former owner was present for a little over a month in the beginning and helped me out with so many things. I’m also part of some helpful Facebook groups, but there is really only so much that can be passed on without actually living the experience (and stress).

All things considered, the transition from office worker to bookstore owner felt pretty natural and I have definitely felt the support of my family and community. Following the huge success of Canadian Independent Bookstore Day, I am very optimistic about the future of this store and independent bookstores in general.

A photo of the interior of Black Cat Books and a photo of owner Anne-Marie Bailey.

Can you share a bit about the store itself? What can people expect when they walk in?

We carry mostly used books, but we also have a growing collection of new books and do special orders. We sell our own unique blend of roasted coffee beans, thanks to a local brûlerie, and we’ll brew a cup for you to try while you browse. Likewise, we are lucky to have a very symbiotic relationship with the yarn and tea shop next door, connected via hallway, which makes for a great experience for customers overall.

As an English bookstore in the province of Quebec, we are a bit of an anomaly. I may be slightly biased, but I think Black Cat Books is a hidden gem and one of our region’s best kept secrets. Tucked away in the back of the building, when people finally find it or happen upon it, it’s a bit like stepping through a magic portal into another time. With over 14,000 books packed wall to wall, floor to ceiling, in under 700 square feet, it’s a treasure trove; a dragon’s hoard of books as far as the eye can see, and a book lover’s dream (although some people do find an entire wall of book spines a bit too overwhelming).

How do you decide which books to stock?

This is still something I’m figuring out. So far, I’ve been trying to stock books that reflect relevant themes and holidays, classics, TikTok trends, and my personal favourites or books that I want to read. We also have a good amount of local content, books by local authors and/or about our region.

Photos of the interior of Black Cat Books including books and the inside of the store window.

What are some new or upcoming releases that you’re excited about?

Some recent titles I’m looking forward to reading soon are Murder Your Employer by Rupert Holmes, The Dos and Donuts of Love by Adiba Jaigirdar, and Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto.

What is your vision for the store’s future?

I have so many ideas, hopes, and dreams for the store and few ideas for how to make any of them a reality—haha. As I write this, I am working at increasing the store’s online presence, including updating the website, with a vision to someday offer online sales. I’d like to be able to have a seating area and meeting space for events, book clubs, etc., but I fear that this may require a bigger space, which isn’t possible right now. So, I’m trying to scale back on that and dream a little smaller or outside of the box for now.

Also, maybe a cat?!

What do you love most about being an independent bookseller?

The books! I love that reading and shopping for books is my actual job. I love hearing people talk about the books they’ve read, why they did or did not enjoy them. And I love the little exclamations of joy and awe when people walk through the door for the first time.

Photographs of the exterior of Black Cat Books.


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