“Customers will bring you a wider knowledge of authors, books, and topics because they share your passion. They feel they are home and part of the family.”
La Maison Anglaise has been effectively serving readers and community members since 1984. It is Quebec City’s only locally owned and independent English and Spanish bookstore and has recently expanded with a new location in Gatineau, QC. We spoke with owner Guy Dubois about the store’s history, its mission, and his vision for the future.
The store has been serving its customers since 1984 – that’s a long time! Can you tell us about the history of the store? How has it changed over the years?
La Maison Anglaise (LMA)’s purpose in 1984 was to serve an English-language school in Quebec City. At the time, no resources were available to the public. LMA was mainly selling dictionaries and grammar books. From there, the store grew a bit but ran into financial difficulties in 1999. At that time, I joined the team and took control of the operations in 2000. I built the development and growth of the store around the needs of English schools and French schools that offered international programs to students.
In addition to your wide selection of English-language books, I understand you also have a growing Spanish section. Has this always been an important area for you?
The interest for Spanish books started with the creation of Vision Trilingual Schools. We started developing this area of our business around 2008. By 2010 we saw growth in the Hispanic community in Quebec which helped us to develop that market. For the past five years, we have been working closely with the Quebec Libraries Network to develop a Spanish collection.
We’d love to hear a bit about your team. What is your “store family” like?
Founder Peter Vaughan was with the company until 2000 when I became involved. Marie-Josée Sauvageau, the store manager, joined me in June 2000. The rest of the team has changed over the years, with Viviane becoming our assistant for the educational market. I can also count on my accounting person, Karoline, who has been with us for the past five years. All our other employees have been students (most of them from Laval University Literature Department) who have brought so much love and knowledge of literature to the store.
What is something our readers might be surprised to learn about your shop?
The most surprising thing is that we don’t sell any French books, even though we live and work in a French environment (Quebec City which is 95% Francophone). However, all our staff members are Francophones (with few exceptions over the years).
Can you share some of your favourite books to sell?
We have an ongoing love story with Louise Penny. We had the privilege of welcoming her for readings in her early years and she’s continued to visit our store from time to time since then. Bury Your Dead is the one we recommend most, since the action is based in Quebec City.
What is your vision for the store’s future?
In 2018, we acquired Un Coin du Monde – a local gift and magazine shop. Our wide selection of magazines is now available to all our customers using the store transfer capability. More recently we acquired la Librairie Michabou in Gatineau (Aylmer). In Gatineau, we’re adding a French book selection to our English offerings. Our goal is to serve the Gatineau readers and develop the educational market based on our experience. Mike Mason (a former HarperCollins sales rep) and Sophie Guibord (an LMA employee) are co-managers and will bring the store to another level. After only four months, we are already ahead of our forecasts.
What do you love most about being an independent bookseller?
Being an independent bookseller is really demanding at many levels, but it gives us a lot of autonomy. Being closer to your customers and to your business partners is a treat. Customers will bring you a wider knowledge of authors, books, and topics because they share your passion. They feel they are home and part of the family.