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“As people often do, we started fantasizing about a bookstore, specifically a horror one. In a quick moment of awareness, I realized that I could do it. There was no need to wait until I retired. I could realize my dream now.” 

Raven’s End Books is a brand-new horror bookshop in Winnipeg, MB. Whether readers are looking for body horror, Indigenous folklore, or queer stories, this unique bookstore has them covered. We spoke to owner, Chelsea McKee-Trenchard, about achieving this long-held dream and the joy of being an indie bookseller.

Can you tell us how Raven’s End Books came to be?

Being a bookstore owner was always a retirement dream of mine. When I found myself having a sudden professional upheaval, I started to consider it more seriously. I was working in a corporate role but realized I wasn’t happy and wanted a job where I felt I was making a difference. I knew I was passionate about building community and books, so I naturally thought of becoming a librarian. 

However, after a couple of months without hearing anything back from my resume or volunteer requests, I spoke with my sister-in-law. I was sharing my frustration of waiting for someone else to help me realize my professional goals. As people often do, we started fantasizing about a bookstore, specifically a horror one. In a quick moment of awareness, I realized that I could do it. There was no need to wait until I retired. I could realize my dream now. My sister-in-law chose not to take the leap with me, but she has been with me every step of the way.

Why horror? I have always been a fan of horror. As a kid, I wasn’t interested in reading something unless there was drama, mystery, and murder. I was obsessed with Fear Street and loved R.L. Stine in all his capacities. As an adult, I was frustrated with finding a new horror novel as most bookstores stocked very little and tended to focus on the bigger names. I wanted to be able to find a book that met my niche needs and love. Once I decided to open a bookstore, I knew I wanted to create a space where a horror fan could go and be overwhelmed (in the good way) by the selection.

What was the business planning process like? Can you share some of the unique challenges you faced and how you stayed motivated?

Truthfully, I hated developing the business plan. It was challenging trying to put exact numbers and logistics around building a bookshop and community. Adding to that, we were creating a horror bookshop, the second one in Canada. There weren’t common metrics by which to figure out our expectations for success. After mountains of research and discussions with other bookstore owners, we finally cobbled together some numbers and a business plan of which we could be proud.

The biggest challenge was dealing with preconceptions around horror. I fielded numerous doubts about the viability of horror and our possibility of success. People often think that horror is just blood and gore. In reality, the genre is much wider. Thus, horror is different things for different people. It’s anything that makes you feel uneasy, tense, or scared. There are so many sub genres within sub genres and, I honestly believe, something for everyone. The horror genre is a master craft in emotional investment. While some think it’s shallow and there tends to be a lack of credibility given to the genre, horror authors actually have to be careful constructors of their stories. If you don’t care, you don’t scare.

We were originally supposed to open in September 2023. However, because of renovation permits and delays, it was moved to January of this year. While the delay was disheartening, it provided an opportunity for us to pivot. We focused on developing our online platform and found local markets and events to showcase the store. We offered free city-wide delivery and began creating our social media presence. While it sucks to have to wait, we have done a good job of building support and anticipation and expect to have a great opening.

We finally received word that we were good to move in and start right before the holidays. Our doors officially opened on January 4, 2024!

What can readers expect when they visit your shop?

One of our main objectives with Raven’s End is to create a community for horror lovers. We want a spooky, cozy space for our readers where they can find that niche book they’ve been looking for and maybe meet other like-minded readers. Many horror sections focus on the larger names like Stephen King, which can leave smaller publishers and authors not able to get  the shelf space they want. Our objective is to give them a platform to make it easier for the public to meet them.

What is your vision for the future of your store?

Ultimately, we hope to become a community bookstore where we can support local authors and partner with local businesses. Some of the plans we have include a monthly book club subscription, developing horror lesson plans for educators, and creative writing classes.

And, of course, we’ll be doing events! We want to work with local sellers to host market Saturdays, silent book clubs for fellow introverts, and craft nights featuring spooky creations.

What do you love most about being an independent bookseller (so far)?

I have been awed by the support in the community. Michael at Whodunit Books and Chris from Little Ghost Books both sat with me for over an hour while I grilled them about running a bookshop. Jo at Block Shop Books let me shadow her for the day when I was visiting Nova Scotia. I am so grateful—their help made all the difference in planning for our store. And looking forward, I am excited to create something. It feels like I’m making a difference by creating community and platforms for small publishers and creators to shine.


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We wish to acknowledge the support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund.

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