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Readers flock to the Flying Dragon bookshop to say goodbye

It came as a surprise to Toronto’s booklovers when, mere days after winning the 2011 Libris Award for Specialty Bookstore of the Year, children’s bookshop The Flying Dragon announced via their blog that they would be closing for good at the end of June. According to co-owner Nina McCreath, sales have not been where they needed to be this year.

“We have in recent months explored opportunities to embrace the technological advances that have presented themselves with such rapidity in our industry,” the store announced on their blog last week. “But at the end of the day we realized that for us, it was all about the books and the tactile, sensory experience they provide.”

Store co-owners Cathy Francis and Nina McCreath.

“While we can’t imagine not being able to walk into the magical world of The Flying Dragon on a daily basis, we know that our futures hold wondrous adventures and we wish the same for all our loyal customers and our colleagues in the publishing industry.”

Ever since then, there has been an outpour of community support from readers and publishers alike, lamenting the loss of yet another Toronto indie bookstore. This morning, after eight years on Bayview Avenue, the Flying Dragon hosted what will likely be the store’s last event before the store’s closing, and a group of about 60 readers were packed into their intimate basement space, where vines covered the rafters, tea was served from a collection of fine bone china teacups, and McCreath stood at the front of the room with her Summer Reads picks displayed before her.

Talking a mile a minute, she offered her thoughts on nearly 50 selections, from Geraldine Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing to David Mitchell’s Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet to Tina Fey’s funny and empowering memoir, Bossypants. “It was very poignant for me,” McCreath said after the event. “I couldn’t go down too much of an emotional road before I started because I needed to make sure I could do the job I was going to do today, which was to talk about the books. But I certainly felt that there was a different vibe in the air, and I could feel that people were sad about this being our last time to have this kind of event at the store.”

“I come here to listen to her and be inspired,” said Mike Rose, a sales rep from Random House who attended the event. “I’m inspired by her passion, by the way they love books, and I feel this is a real loss for Bayview Avenue.” This sentiment was overheard in many forms by the people who took this morning to pay tribute to the beloved bookstore — sitting on the staircase when the seats filled up, bringing their kids to sit on the moss-coloured couch upstairs one last time, and listening to McCreath do what she does best: offer informed, heartfelt recommendations on what’s worth reading right now.

Although the store will close its doors on June 30, McCreath mentioned that she and co-owner Cathy Francis are working on “a new venture down the road.” No details are confirmed yet, but readers can keep updated about new developments by following the store on Facebook, where McCreath will continue to post updates. After all, she said, “I don’t know how we can not tell people what we’re reading.”

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