“Being a small part of our community, giving space to a diverse and interesting selection of authors, and exploring the larger world while honoring our home is deeply rewarding.”
Lunenburg Bound has been serving readers for almost eight years. With its varied selection of books, cozy atmosphere, and dedicated team, it is a destination for both locals and visitors to Lunenburg, NS. We spoke to Michael Higgins and Madelaine Higgins about the history of the store, how they choose their inventory, and what it means to operate in their picturesque community.
Can you tell us how Lunenburg Bound Books came to be?
A little over eight years ago, Michael was looking to make a change. For almost 30 years he had worked as a carpenter and boatbuilder. He often thought about how great it would be to spend his days in a bookstore rather than upside down in the bilge of a boat. Wooden boat building is much like bookselling – a deeply romantic and financially precarious undertaking – so felt he was qualified to make the change.
The learning curve was steep, but a healthy dose of innocence is often the best way to start a new endeavor. In May 2023, Lunenburg Bound Books will be eight years old. There have been wonderful staff members throughout the years who have contributed greatly to the growth of the bookshop, but things truly came together in 2020 when Madelaine, Michael’s child, came to work at the bookshop. Madelaine had been working as a Cirque du Soleil performer and instructor, but the pandemic put that career on hold just as help was needed at the bookshop. Madelaine is now responsible for choosing what new books are stocked and ensuring that the shop is current and relevant.
How do you decide what to stock?
We keep current, of course, but we have stitched together a variety of interests to give Lunenburg Bound its unique feel and inventory. We always aim to give space to books seeking social justice, as we want to assist in giving voice to authors and readers whose stories and backgrounds are diverse and often not heard. We strive to create a safe and welcoming bookshop for all as well as a playful and joyful space, remembering that reading can be fun and entertaining.
Lunenburg is a unique place, what do you love most about being a part of the community?
Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While it has kept most of its historical architecture, it has also become a modern and vibrant cultural community. There is a music academy, an arts school, and three bookshops. Lunenburg also boasts a vibrant year-round Farmers Market where we see many of our friends from the bookshop on Thursday mornings. It is a pleasure for all the staff at Lunenburg Bound to live in this historic waterfront community rich in visual arts, music, and literature.
We would love to hear a bit about your team.
Lunenburg Bound Books truly is a family business. Michael and Madelaine are parent and child, of course, but everyone who works here feels like family (we hope). Jenny, now on maternity leave with sweet and not so little Annie, is a singer/songwriter and poet who has worked at the shop for a couple of years. We all feel like new aunties and uncles to Annie. Kate has been with the shop for a year and brings years of library experience with her. Kate enjoys alphabetizing and bringing order to chaos, which works particularly well with Michael. Michael’s wife Alison, who maintains a career as an Occupational Therapist, often jumps into action when called upon. Although we share much in our world views, we have come to the bookshop via very different paths. It is interesting to see how we each tackle the challenges of running a small business.
What is something people might be surprised to learn about your store?
Madelaine quips that we try to practice harm reduction capitalism. We will not be starting our own space program and are instead committed to paying a living wage as defined by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. We also donate to a variety of community and First Nations organizations – to date we have donated $11,181.09. We sell new and used books because we feel it is important to offer books at a lower price and recycle the product at the core of our business. Our customers are a gift that we do not want to take for granted, so we endeavor to contribute to our community as much as we can. We have all made a choice to live here and to enhance and enrich our community.
Can you share some recent or upcoming releases you are excited about?
We recently hosted the Lunenburg launch of Phase Variations by Lou Sheppard (Nevermore Press). Lou is a visual artist, and this book examines an exhibit of Lou’s work looking at queer history in Atlantic Canada. It was a wonderful, standing-room-only event and the only launch that we know of that had a karaoke afterparty. Lunenburg knows how to have a good time, even in the middle of February.
What do you love most about being an independent bookseller?
We both love the constant puzzle that is running an independent bookstore. Being a small part of our community, giving space to a diverse and interesting selection of authors, and exploring the larger world while honoring our home is deeply rewarding. It’s an opportunity to be a part of an evolving conversation with our customers, the authors who’s books we sell, and the publishers who bring those books to print. A bookshop is a great space to work – it is always full of ideas and inspirations to entertain, educate, amaze, and amuse.