Longtime Winnipeg Bookstore Closing in March
Update: Be sure to read the December 12th story here about Hull’s dramatic reopening, just days before Christmas.
It was a supper break during the 1987 Christian Booksellers Association convention in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We walked a few blocks to see Hull’s Family Bookstore. You sensed the history of the place as soon as you walked in. For Christians in Canada’s windy city, Hull’s had always been there, and no doubt there were some who believed Hull’s would always continue to be there.
Alas, another longtime Christian bookstore will close in March; this one after a history that goes back 95 years. A month earlier, their store in Thunder Bay, Ontario will close. The third store, in Steinbach, Manitoba has been sold. Access Winnipeg was told in January that the Smith family, which owns Hull’s hopes to open a downsized location in the future. Store traffic has been cut to half what it was a decade ago.
The memory of that visit during the CBA convention is thoroughly etched in my mind. Our industry was in an exciting growth phase and while people talked about book marketing academically at the conference, blocks away, here was a working laboratory where people from across Canada — from stores large and small — could see a thriving bookstore in action. It made for a good convention field trip.
Hull’s was started by the Hull brothers in 1919 and was purchased by the Smith family in 1996. In a 2011 interview with Christian Week, Margo Smith said somewhat prophetically, “I do think there’s room in the marketplace for independent specialty retailers like us, but at the same time, God will accomplish his purposes and new ways will rise up, whether there is a Christian bookstore in every city or not.”
As I consider that visit to Hull’s all those years ago, it leaves me wondering… Would anyone have predicted back then that in 2014 our industry would be contracting so quickly? That new store start-ups would have ceased? That buyers couldn’t be found for existing stores? These are challenging times.
additional research: Ruth Wilkinson