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The Closing Chapter for Toronto Fixture World's Biggest Bookstore

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

 A giant red building on Edward Street that at one time lived up to its name, the World's Biggest Bookstore will close on Sunday March 23rd after 34 years of serving Toronto-based Bookworms.

Originally a bowling alley, the World's Biggest Bookstore opened in 1980 by Jack and Carl Coles (founder of the Coles Bookstore chain). For years prior to the Edward Street location, a Coles store was found near Dundas and Yonge. Coles Bookstore would eventually become part of Indigo Book and Music conglomerate along with the World's Biggest Bookstore. Consisting of two giant floors of books, magazines or other reading-related items, the store provided a customer with hours of exploration.

For the most part, the World's Biggest Bookstore retained a separate identity from the Indigo chain. The bookstore remained noted over the decades for resisting the trends adopted by other bookstore chains and even some public libraries. Among the standout qualities was the lack of a coffee establishment inside. A store that emphasized the basics for buying literature, the World's Biggest Bookstore won over a slew of customers (myself included).

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

Not living in Toronto, I sometimes visit the city and attempt to explore the rich urban area at least a few times a year. Disliking crowds and confide spaces of the oddly designed Eaton's Centre Indigo store, my sudden discovery of the store a few years ago was a highlight. It was only by chance I ventured out of the Atrium on Bay and caught sight of the World's Biggest Store. Always appreciating the knowledge that can be gained from a good book, I was easily enchanted by the store. While I often had to struggle to find automotive-related books in other Indigo stores, there were plenty available for my consideration at the World's Biggest Bookstore. While the Internet can now exceed access to so many book titles, it is still a treat to physically see the book for a quick glance. In the past several years, I have bought books on the Ford Motor Company, Toronto Maple Leafs and the CF-105 Arrow at the World's Biggest Bookstore. My most recent trip resulted in finding a NASCAR Pop-Up book that I feel like I may selfishly be keeping for myself while I am also thinking it is more geared towards my young nephew. Even though he is not at a reading age, I was able to find him something nice at the World's Biggest Bookstore. It may be unfortunate his reading experience will not involve many more books brought at the large Toronto store.

Shopping there, I have also been impressed by the staff of the World's Biggest Bookstore location. One time I returned to the store after I realized on my recipient that one book appeared at the wrong price. Like any good store, the clerk immediately refunded me the difference and apologized. Personally it was no big deal and I was more than understanding with a pricing error (especially in a store that size). However, the clerk also told me that not everyone was so understanding. Sadly, I can believe some people in Toronto are like that. I know Toronto is in a vastly populated area and it seems manners as well as respect for others is sometimes left at home, can't everyone be a little nicer. Courtesy is free and it is times when I hear of staff taking unnecessary abuse I wish some were not so thrifty.
The city of Toronto has always been a place where figures of the past have needed to make way for the future. The CN Tower, Skydome (Rogers Centre) and the now the Ripley's Aquarium sits on land that was devoted to a sizable railroad infrastructure. The construction of the Eaton's Centre in the 1970s removed both the original Eaton's department store on Queen Street as well as several streets. Names too have changed as Woolworth, S.S. Kresge and Simpson's are no longer found in the downtown area of the Canadian city. While change is constant, Toronto has been engaged in a period over the past 15 years where retail icons have been disappearing or in the process of disappearance.   

As like the people who are spending money in different ways and on different items, the Toronto retail landscape has left behind a lot of major figures. Sam the Record Man's iconic Yonge street has been demolished. Replacing the Eaton's store in 2002 that was once the anchor for the mall, Sears has completely pulled out of the Eaton's Centre last month. By 2016, the city will also lose the distinctive bargain store Honest Ed's.

When the doors close to the World's Biggest Bookstore on Sunday, the future for the space is already planned for what is valuable Toronto real estate. Sold to developers, the land will become a location housing four restaurants.


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