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Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe is Gone: My Favorite Bookstore from my Life in Edmonton

RIP Greenwoods. Photo by Glenn Eilers
RIP Greenwoods. Haunting photo of the empty shelves by Glenn Eilers

Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe in my hometown of Edmonton has closed. Greenwoods’ was a refuge for me.  I’d go inside while waiting for the bus, in the early 1980’s, and browse.  Browse means to feed on buds, and shoots, and I browsed my way through the shelves, discovering books on keeping a journal, the poems of Alice Walker, as well as having my copy of Not Wanted on the Voyage (a re-imagining of Noah’s Ark, narrated by a cat named Mottyl) signed by Timothy Findley.  Greenwoods’ was a welcoming place for authors, and for readers.  My copy of Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See you in the Morning, by Alice Walker, still has the Greenwoods’ sticker on the back, $6.95, and one of the first books I remember buying at Greenwoods’.

Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe was founded in 1979 by siblings Brad, Gail and Laurie Greenwood. They moved into the newly renovated Tipton Block building on Whyte Avenue in the Strathcona section of Edmonton, AB.  Whyte Avenue was also a refuge for me when I was in high school, with the bookstore, cafes, and the Princess Repertory Theatre.  It was a part of Edmonton built to walking scale, and I felt independent taking the bus there and then having a whole world open up to me as I walked.

Greenwoods' Bookshoppe in the Tipton Block on Whyte Avenue, Edmonton, AB.
Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe in their first location at the Tipton Block on Whyte Avenue, Edmonton, AB.

I discovered that since I left Edmonton in 1985, Greenwoods’ moved to another location in 2001, and then back to Whyte Avenue just a little while ago, and sadly, Brad Greenwood died in his office at the Bookshoppe at age 57 just a few months later, and then Gail announced the closure. I remember reading a line in a book in Greenwoods’ about information being the new wealth, that it will be the new currency.  That line stayed with me, and perhaps was part of why I became a librarian.  Many of the bookstores I have known and loved are gone.  Ironically, browse  is related to the term web browsers, and most of our browsing now happens online.  There are two bookstores in my area that I can still visit, and I am grateful to find their refuge.  Both are relatively small, but that doesn’t preclude serendipity and discovery, as the personality of their owners is expressed in book choices.

The Doylestown Bookshop

Joseph Fox Bookshop

What bookstores have you known?

5 comments

  1. What a beautiful tribute to what must have been a wonderful place to be. There were two bookstores in Saskatoon that I loved to spend time in, one was downtown, one was a used book store on the eclectically cool Broadway Avenue. Also, a friend and I came upon a delightful used book store in St. Andrews By the Sea, New Brunswick, that was in a small cottage surrounded by a wonderfully tangled garden. It was called Pansy Patch, I believe (pansy or tansy… it was in 1982 that we were there). There was a sign on the gate, “Pull the string and lift the latch, welcome friends to Pansy Patch.” It had books squirreled away in the small rooms, just a wondrous place for a booklover to spend an afternoon.

  2. abby says:

    I too love bookstores and and am always sorry to see them go. I am a big fan of my E reader, so I know I contribute to the problem, but bookstores have always been a sanctuary for me since I can can remember. Although I love browsing in a small independent bookstore, we don’t really have any in our area. We did have 2 Borders within 5 – 10 minutes of our house that I used to visit frequently, and I still really miss them.

  3. My aunt sent this account of bookstores she has known and said I could share it:
    Hi Margaret: Seems like you and I have the same kind of “haunts”…wherever I live, I always find myself lingering in new bookstores I have discovered on my own. I loved Munro’s in Victoria on Government Street….massive, granite, a bank building or some other landmark that has reinvented itself over and over according to the times. Bolen’s Books in Hillside Mall in Victoria has theater seats inside where I would peruse a book to see if it was worth the purchase price. Bolen’s started out much smaller and lost some of its unique flavor when it expanded but still felt, somehow, like it was an intimate, personal space. Alas, in Campbell River, BC, Stillwater Books is closing its doors. The owners were so personable and the store had ceiling to floor oak bookcases beautiful to look at. There were talks by authors, poetry reading, and displays of local art..paintings to pottery. The store also sponsored various events as well meant to bring people into the world of books and art. There was also a coffee pot or teapot; you could make your own “cuppa” and have a chat with Ruth, co-owner. Ruth and her husband had seen the world and shared my love of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Well, I have moved on to Nanaimo, BC…..I wonder where my wanderings will take me….I am sure there is a gem waiting to be discovered that is a purveyor of books. The new library here downtown is quite beautiful…open and bright. I must be old-school, as most of my browsing will always be in bookstores rather than online. There is something warm, embracing, and almost sacred that I feel in a bookstore. I only wish that the Alexandria Library, burnt down during the reign of Cleopatra (and mourned by her) was still standing. I wonder what amazing knowledge is lost forever to us. It was a repository of the most knowledge of its time. By the way, have you ever noticed how many bookstores have a resident cat…like Marmalade, a ginger tabby residing in Sidney, BC. I have always had special moments in bookstores and always feel as if I have been on a journey when I exit the store. Bye for now. Minnette

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