Owning a bookstore is a dream most writers have. The idea is heady when thinking of walls lined with well-loved titles, chatting about your favourite authors all day, and helping customers find their perfect paperback match. Yet, it’s an idea often out of reach, especially in the age of online shopping and same-day shipping.
The owners of McCauley’s newest bookstore, however, have made that dream a reality. Céline Chuang, a graphic designer and writer, and Benjamin Hertwig, also a writer, opened Paper Birch Books in December 2022.
Paper Birch Books is a used bookstore with a cozy, welcoming atmosphere and a focus on community and inclusivity.
“I think we just wanted to create a space that people could enter as a kind of sanctuary and feel a sense of comfort and quiet, and also find some really wonderful books,” says Chuang.
Located at 108 Avenue and 95 Street, the shop features floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and eclectic wall art. A small seating area encourages shoppers to stop and stay awhile, and there’s something for everyone on the shelves.
“I think there are some collector’s editions of books that people will always be looking for, like nice leather bounds, or Franklins or Folios, and then there are titles that are considered classic, like Jane Eyre, or a lot of Vonnegut; we always pick that stuff up,” says Chuang.
“But something we wanted from the beginning was to have an intentionally inclusive eye for our curation,” she adds. “So we pick works that might not often be included and what people consider classic or literature, even in terms of just the writing of people of colour, or from non-Western countries in English.”
Chuang and Hertwig also aim to be inclusive with their pricing system.
“We have books for $1 or $2, so that anyone coming in would be able to afford to buy something,” says Hertwig. “I mean, yes, it’s nice when you sell an expensive book, but honestly, selling a book for $2 to someone who is incredibly excited to read it, I like that more than selling a $100 book to someone who likes it because it’s pretty.”
Opening a store in McCauley is something of a homecoming for Hertwig, who grew up in the area. After spending close to a decade in Vancouver, the couple decided to return to Edmonton to be closer to family after Hertwig was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“We thought, if we ever do move back to Edmonton, this is the neighbourhood we wanted to live in,” he says.
“It kind of came together when we heard that this space was available in the neighbourhood that we love, and it’s like a two-minute walk from wherever you live. So it’s a dream,” adds Chuang.
While the store has only been open for a few months, Chuang and Hertwig have been enjoying being in McCauley and becoming part of the community.
“My favourite part is the in-person interactions with people. That’s really the best part about this. This business is being able to have conversations with people about books and stories and give recommendations,” says Chuang.
PAPER BIRCH BOOKS
10825 95 St
Tues to Fri: 11 am to 6 pm
Sat: 10 am to 5 pm
Sun: 10 am to 4 pm