Made in Vancouver is a collaboration between Vancity and Daily Hive. Together, we’re turning the spotlight onto local businesses, organizations, and individuals who are helping to create a healthy local economy.
Based in Port Coquitlam, Western Sky Books is an award-winning used and new bookstore but has a gallery space for local visuals artists.
In fact, it is the only used bookstore in the TriCities area of Metro Vancouver, and the only independent bookstore in Port Coquitlam.
As part of our Made in Vancouver series spotlighting local businesses, we talked to Tamara Gorin, the co-owner of Western Sky Books about their great selection of books.
Vancity has been supporting local businesses like Western Sky Books with different programs. Now until Sept 30, Vancity enviro™ Visa* cardholders will earn 1.5x the rewards points at select businesses through the Load Up on Local program. To learn more, visit vancity.com/local
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“Western Sky Books values readers and the kind of book buying experience they expect. There are places to sit and read a few pages or reflect on your purchases, our selection is wide and varied, and we host many literary events for you, your friends, and family to participate in,” said Gorin.
Western Sky Books has over 1,000 used titles, large children’s literature section, a partnership with LibroFM to provide digital audiobooks, and more.
Gorin runs the much-loved bookstore with her co-owner, Dianne Ganz.
Currently, they sell used and new books, have an art gallery in partnership with PoCo Arts Society and sell giftware made by local artists and artisans. They will return to hosting events in the store in 2022.
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The inspiration behind this cozy bookstore was the modern remake of the Wizard of Oz, Wicked.
” [The name] Western Sky comes from the bridge in the song Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked: ‘If you care to find me, look to the Western sky.’ As in, find me at the bookstore,” said Gorin.
They wanted to provide a space in the community for literary and visual artists to meet, share space, and communicate.
They also wanted a place for readers to connect with writers, for local writers to find a home for their books and connect with their readers.
“We chose used books to create a low cost option for readers to get their books and to participate in the green”economy, diverting books from the landfill and ensuring they get to their next readers, sometimes many of them,” she said.
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Although running a business was hard, they trusted their instincts about their vision from the very start.
“This helps us when it seems like things are going badly or when we lose track of the thread when everything is coming at us, things like the pandemic, but also the day-to-day running of a business. “
“Several people with business know-how told us we would not make it past the first year in business because ‘who reads now?’ or ‘you can’t compete with Amazon.’ But we trusted our customers were out there and that we would be the place they chose to buy their books,” said Gorin.
She also said they struggled during the pandemic because they had a tough time keeping up with the government changes.
“Having to stop and assess each time what is both best for public health and what is for our business. We put our staff and immediate communities ahead of expectations, but each time the government decides to open up or change something, we feel the pressure to move away from that value,” she said.
“We may have lost some customers because of that. But sticking with it has meant we are safe, our families are safe, and our customers are safe.”
However, they had a good foundation of support, and a safety net including mentorship and time to consult, make changes to the business plan.
They also took time to build partnerships with other local businesses and arts organizations, to create their social media presence and brand.
“Probably one of the most important decisions we made was to use a specific point of sale with a built-in website, created specifically for our industry. This helped us create a storefront and an online presence with a long reach, well beyond our local city.”
Despite all of this, they are grateful for the support from the local community and beyond.
So if you’re a bookworm or just want to pick up a great book, check out Western Sky Books either online or at 2850 Shaughnessy Street Unit 2132, Port Coquitlam.