“We like to think of ourselves as a hub for the community. A place for dialogue. A welcoming space where everyone, in particular 2SLGBT+ youth, feel comfortable and supported.”
Block Shop Books in Lunenburg, NS is a local favourite and tourist destination. Small yet mighty, the shop offers a wide array of literature, nonfiction titles, books for young readers, graphic novels, local interest books, and more. We spoke to Jo Treggiari – co-owner as well as a Governor General’s award-nominated YA author – about the store and community.
Can you tell us a bit about the history of the store? How long have you been in operation and how has the store changed over the years?
We opened Lexicon Books in 2015. After a partnership change in 2020, Anne-Marie Sheppard and I relaunched the store as Block Shop Books, a fitting name as we are housed in the historical building where they used to make blocks or pulleys for the rigging of tall ships, such as the iconic Bluenose. We’ve always been a curated store with a focus on Canadian authors and under-represented, marginalized voices. Our space is only 500-square feet, and we are very thoughtful about the titles we carry.
Can you describe the store for us – what can visitors expect when they stop by?
We love being in the shop and that is reflected in the atmosphere we’ve created – it is a welcoming, safe space. The vibe is relaxed and relaxing. Books offer such comfort, and we want our customers to feel happy when they enter the store. We have comfy chairs, plenty of flowers and plants, and a kid’s reading nook. The walls are exposed rock – hearkening back to the block shop – and there’s a big picture window which lets in lots of light. Outside we have a patio where customers can relax and read. And next door is a fabulous coffee shop, No.9.
Lunenburg is a wonderful place to live, work, and visit. What role does your bookstore play in the community?
We like to think of ourselves as a hub for the community. A place for dialogue. A welcoming space where everyone, in particular 2SLGBT+ youth, feel comfortable and supported. We are happy to be one of three bookstores in a one-block area we affectionately call the Lunenburg Book District. In normal times, we hosted many readings and monthly book clubs. We hope to get back to having events next year and are brainstorming what that will look like. We’d like to try a different approach to traditional author readings and to that end we are talking with local musicians and actors and other creatives.
I know that you are committed to amplifying diverse voices in store. Can you share some of your favourite books by diverse writers?
All-time favourites include The House In The Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi, Still Life by Sarah Winman, and Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. In terms of middle-grade and YA, I love The Girl From The Sea by Molly Ostertag, Thanks A Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas, Urchin by Kate Story, and Bruised by Tanya Boteju.
I am really looking forward to reading Joshua Whitehead’s Making Love To The Land, and Billy-Ray Belcourt’s A Minor Chorus since I loved their previous works.
What is something readers would be surprised to learn about your bookstore?
Given that we are housed in a small building in a small town, I think customers are surprised by the diversity of our collection. We’ve had so many people over the years find the obscure book they were looking for. Or every title on their TBR list. Not to mention all the unexpected gems just waiting for the perfect reader.
What do you love most about being an independent bookseller?
As a reader and a writer and a bookseller, I love that my life is all about books. And equally that it is about people who enjoy books as much as I do. A lot of our customers have become dear friends. It’s such a kick to bring a title in and know immediately who it would be perfect for. Communicating that enthusiasm is so rewarding.