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The Bookshop NL offers book buying alternative

Jennifer Shepherd’s passion for books led her to launch a different kind of bookstore. — Submitted photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter CORNER BROOK — On Oct. 1, the West coast of the province is going to have a new and exciting way to purchase books online, when the new business, The Bookshop NL, launches. The idea for the business stemmed from owner/operator Jennifer Shepherd’s love of reading. “So I’ve been a book lover my whole life and after having kids, I got back into it a little bit more once they were more independent and I started to frequent the library and the bookstore. I will say that what we have here in Corner Brook really, we have a few smaller areas that offer a few different more like your niche kind of things, but I found myself going to Cole’s every week and it just felt like it lacked that experience that I was wanting of going to different bookshops and bookstores and things like that,” said Shepherd. “So as I was sitting in my room one day in my cozy reading chair and looking at my bookshelf, I thought, what if I just started to sell some pre-loved books that I’ve taken good care of, read once and can be perfect for another person’s home, and then my brain just started to go. Like I had this entrepreneurial mindset anyway that really likes to keep me up at night, and I thought I could probably promote that and sell that, and then what if, you know, get some books that Coles has to offer too, because sometimes I’ve gone to Cole’s and they haven’t had the book in stock, but they can order it in — it’s going to take this long and the whole spiel — so then it just kind of went from there.” Shepherd sees her business as a way of bringing more options to the community, and as more of a collaboration with other bookstores instead of a competition. “I just want to give more. I wish somebody else did this, to be honest. I would have loved to just sit in my chair and read but it was like, why don’t we have this? Why don’t we have more options here? And it seems like we have a huge market for readers,” said Shepherd. “I know reading is trending now, which is hilarious, but it just seems to be really taking off and more and more people want more options, so why not just provide it where I have the time being at home to do it?” So far it has been a whirlwind for Shepherd, who began planning her business only a short time ago. “It was literally like, I’d say a month and a half ago. I looked at my husband who was a real estate agent and said, ‘can I buy this place downtown and turn it into a bookshop?’ And he’s like, ‘no’, and I’m like, ‘no, really’? He’s like, ‘oh, okay, well, we got to talk about this,’” said Shepherd. “So then we carved out some time over supper. He’s used to me having ideas and just being spontaneous and impulsive, so it’s okay, but I told him I’d love to have a cute little bookshop close to some coffee shops to have people walk in. Oh my gosh, it’s like a dream. Then we started to talk about it and thought, okay, well, let’s look for a place. Let’s look for an actual building or a place for you to open up shop. And I said, okay, but I can’t wait that long, so I’m going to start now.” For now, while she scopes out for the right real estate to make her dream of a storefront come to fruition, the business will be operated out of her home. “It’s quickly become, I’d say in the last month and a half — no joke, that’s how long it’s been a bookshop — a legit bookshop with brand new titles that just I pre ordered that just got released the same time as Indigo, and also all the way down to some old classics that are still in good condition that have been donated and kind of cleaned up and put on the shelves. So it’s just exploding, the ideas and the books and the bookish gifts,” said Shepherd. “Brand new titles will be here. There will also be new condition books that have been discounted. So I’ll always have a sales section and discounted section for books. A lot of times books are returned to publishers, so you’ll notice there could be a mark or a stamp or something like that that they return but are still mint. So we’ve got the brand new, then I also have pre-loved, used books that are in good condition.” There will be certain specifications for the books that are donated, and some will be free. “I kind of have a guideline to send people when they ask about donating, and if it doesn’t fit within the guidelines, I will sometimes still take it and put it into my little free library that I have as a donation, but if it’s something that is still great quality that I think would be a good fit for the bookshop to be sold, then I’ll take that and kind of recirculate that through the system,” said Shepherd. “If it’s something that is pre loved and in really good condition and the person does want something for it, whether it be like a monetary value or something, I have trading credit. So what I’m doing is letting the people know that I will collect their books, sort through the books, look at the condition, see what’s fit to resell or just donate. Like I said, if they are able to be resold, then I value them at what I will be able to, I think, get for them and then offer them a trading credit that they can then use within the bookshop to purchase more pre-loved books and things that they like.” Their website isn’t live yet, but the landing page is ready for launch. “The website is So if you go there now, you can just enter your email and that will just subscribe you to a newsletter and you’ll be able to get more information on releases and sales and things like that. So it’s not up and live, right yet. You can’t search and look at all the inventory because it’s still being uploaded, but it will take you just to like a blank kind of landing page,” said Shepherd. “The actual location, where it is home based, it won’t be accessible by the public until I actually get a storefront, so that’s unfortunate, but also it gives me that bit of time to feel out the market and kind of see what’s really working, what’s not working.” She’s taken time to ensure the best vendor options for her business. “I do have some vendors that aren’t local. Some are even American versus Canadian, but I’m trying to shift that. It’s just taking a lot of time to source out the right people and the right vendors that I want to kind of have represented in the shop. Ideally I would have a local artist creating the bookish gifts and things like that as well. So it’s going to be a work in progress, right? It’s going to be something that you may be able to purchase when it goes live October 1. I may not carry it, say in six months’ time. I may have it replaced with a local artist or things like that.” There will be different options for people to get the books they order. “There’s going to be the option for local pickup. So anybody who wants to pick up locally, I will meet them at a provided spot. I’ll email them when their order is ready for pickup, which will probably during business hours, be ready within two hours. So you go on the website, you want to read this book tonight, you come order it, it’s in stock, you’ll have it within two hours and be able to curl up tonight and read it, which is my goal,” said Shepherd. “So I will meet them at a designated area away from my home just for privacy reasons, unless it’s a friend of mine, and then they can carry on with their way and have that kind of person-to-person business and be able to avail that for free pickup if they want it delivered to them. I will offer a low fee for delivery and I will have delivery days. So they may then have to wait, say if they order it on a Sunday, I may be doing deliveries on say, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturdays, so they’ll have to wait a day or two, but then they will be delivered to their door than if they would rather have it shipped.” Ahead of launch, Shepherd has received very positive feedback. “I think a lot of people have felt the same way that I have felt. Anybody who’s especially been into reading a lot, they’ve noticed there is a lack of options. There’s not a lot out there, and that’s with any business, to be honest, especially on the West coast. It’s slowly kind of getting back there. Of course, COVID put a big damper on a lot of the takeoff businesses that were starting and kind of shifted to be online, but I think there’s a good market there,” said Shepherd. “Everybody has kind of encouraged me and said good things about it, and I feel like there’s going to be something for everybody in the shop, whether they’re buying for themselves or for a friend or family with the bookish gifts as well. We’ll be encouraging artists that are local to put their items in the shop for sale and get their name out there as well, but there’s going to be affordable options. There could be a three dollar book. It could be a couple of dollars for a sticker or a bookmark or things like that, that’s affordable and range all the way up to a more luxury product, which could be a handmade luxury candle or blanket or something that could range upwards of $40 or $50, depending on the item. So while there’ll still be kind of those luxury premium items, I’m trying to make a wide range of options for people to be interested in kind of coming here and shopping and finding something that fits their budget.” Shepherd invites local artists and authors to contact her to see about featuring your work in her shop. “I’m having a bit of difficulty contacting, and of course, part of that difficulty comes with just time, as one person, but I’m trying to track down the local artists of Newfoundland, authors and things like that, because I feel like it’s important to have a platform like that,” said Shepherd. “The big named authors always get the fame and the indie authors and sometimes the Newfoundland authors, it’s like, ‘oh, that’s cool, but I don’t really want to read that book because it is a Newfoundland book or a local author,’ but I feel like that needs to be promoted more. So I’d love for local authors to reach out and get in contact with me by email if they do want to have a space here and be promoted.”

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