The act of reading local would be hindered—if not impossible—without local independent bookshops. In celebration of the incredible stores and booksellers throughout our province, we’re launching a new Behind the Scenes feature for bookstores: Into the Indies.
For our inaugural edition, we caught up with Lee Trendatue, co-owner of Galiano Island Books. The bookshop is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, and has been a driving force for arts on the island community.
How did you get started as a bookseller?
I have been working as a bookseller for twenty years. My husband James Schmidt and I opened the store in 1997, so we are celebrating our twentieth year of operating the bookstore on Galiano Island.
We became interested in bookselling through our daughter, Mary Trentadue. She was interested in opening a bookstore at that time and we started attending national book fairs with her. We fell in love with the industry. We opened our store in the early winter of 1997 and Mary opened her store, 32 Books, in North Vancouver just 4 months later. (The ’32’ in 32 Books is our last name; Trentadue means 32 in Italian.)
We have always been a family that loved books, many of our holidays were spent in bookstores, always walking out with stacks to carry to the nearest coffee bar.
Congratulations on your twentieth anniversary! What is on the highlight reel for Galiano Island Books?
Since opening the store in 1997, the store has been solidly supported by authors, our lovely Galiano community, and visitors to the island. Galiano Island is well known as a community that supports the arts. Jane Rule, Audrey Thomas, and Michael Christie are just a few of the authors who have called Galiano home.
Over the years we have hosted many local and BC authors events as well as authors from further afield, including Margaret Atwood, Evelyn C. White (Alice Walker’s biographer), and Jane Rule received her Order of British Columbia right here in our store from the then–Lieutenant Governor of BC, Garde Gardom, in full regalia!
Nine years ago we started a literary festival which continues and is held annually in February. This event has become very popular and very well attended, bringing authors from across Canada. We have hosted so many wonderful novelists, poets, and non-fiction writers at this event, including George Bowering, Anosh Irani, John Valliant, Michael Crummy, and Heather O’Neill.
What makes your community and customers special?
Our community is typical of many islanders, in that it attracts creative eccentric people. People who love nature and the arts. They love to read and they support those who write by buying their books, attending reading events, concerts, and art shows. For an island of only approximately 1,000 permanent residents, it is astonishing that it can support a full service bookstore that is open every day (except Christmas and New Year’s Day) throughout the year.
Do you have a proudest moment with a customer?
There have been so many, but the one that stands out for me happened in the wee hours of the morning following one of our Harry Potter parties. One of the young men who had attended the party had rushed home with his book that he had purchased at midnight to get started reading. He returned a few hours later and the staff and I were cleaning up when he rushed up the ramp. He wanted to let us know how much it had meant to him that we had had this party, that he had been introduced to the Harry Potter books at our store and wanted to thank us. Then he rushed away to finish reading his book!
Is there a time of year or event that makes being a bookseller the best job?
I have never ever forgotten the buzz of attending book fairs, and these can be regional, national or international. There is nothing like sitting down with publishing reps and hearing about the new books that season, so very exciting! And then of course catching up with my fellow booksellers , sharing our stories with a glass of wine. I have made very good friends in the industry and keep in touch with them throughout the year, including friends from as far away as New Zealand, Toronto, and of course in BC.
And of course, there is nothing like selling a book to an excited young person. They hug their books as they are going out the door.
Every time I open a new box of books that have arrived feels like Christmas morning to me!
If you weren’t a bookseller, what other job would you want to do?
I would have loved to have been an opera singer. I took singing lessons for many years but at the time I was working at Vancouver General Hospital as a psychologist and was too busy!
Which book do you think is underappreciated?
Most underrated authors. I have three: Audrey Thomas, Bill Gaston, Alan Cumyn (get a copy of his book Losing It ), and our poets.
What is your favourite part of being an independent bookstore?
Curating the books for my customers! I love taking a fresh look at my store and beefing up a section that is too thin! I love expanding the depth of a section. This summer, I am doing that with books on philosophy, politics, and international authors (great translations of the best books in a given country).
I love supporting new talent in our industry and watching that young writer begin to take off. And of course as an avid reader, having access to books is magic!