25th Trillium Award

Ben McNally Books

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Before he had his own independent bookstore in Toronto bearing his name, Ben McNally was the manager at Nicholas Hoare for a long time. He left Front Street for the heart of the financial district right on Bay just south of Richmond in September, 2007, which was considered an unprecedented move for an independent bookseller.

As Ben McNally explained to blogTO, however, he had good reasons for planting his business here. First of all, since McNally "stocks a high percentage of first-run hardcovers, a well-to-do clientele is an obvious bonus (if not necessity)." Also, "based on the hourly traffic in the area, he can close the store at an early 6pm (and on Sundays), which allows for a variety of events to take place in 2500 square foot space after hours." As a result, McNally can sell books during business hours and, at the end of the day, he is free to hold events in the store (which he often does).

As he told the Torontoist for their "Book Mark" series, which profiled independent bookstores in Toronto, he was also intrigued by the financial district because Ben McNally could find a place as a “'neighbourless' bookstore, that is, one that serviced people where they work, not where they live." McNally "chose Bay Street for the industries it serviced—legal, political, financial—because he loves those kinds of books."

And what a great venue for events! With its wood paneling and chandelier lighting, the atmosphere of the store is of exquisite sophistication. As you will see from some of the pictures in the scrapbook, many of the books are face-out, displaying the large selection of hardcover titles. There is also a wall of signed books that Ben has acquired from being the official bookseller of the International Festival of Authors. It does look more like someone's private library collection than it does a bookstore (the comfy leather chair definitely helps in this vision).

McNally's vast experience as a bookseller only adds to the store's aura of sophistication. You might be able to read reviews online before purchasing a book, but at Ben McNally you can get the man himself to help you. For McNally, independent bookstores make sense "for those who don't already have a title in mind, who'd like some hands-on guidance or recommendations" (blogTO).

McNally is also very involved in Toronto's literary community. In partnership with the Globe and Mail, he co-ordinates the Sunday Authors Brunch Series at the King Edward Hotel, he has been the bookseller at the International Festival of Authors for the past two years, and he is the President of Project Bookmark Canada.

What is Ben McNally's message to all us book lovers? It's right on his storefront...read the fine print!

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Ben McNally Books
Ben McNally Books