Interview with a Bookstore:Galiano Island Books
Where Bookselling Runs in the Family
Husband and wife team Lee Trentadue and Jim Schmidt opened Galiano Island Books in 1997, the first ever bookstore on the island. The venture was inspired by one of their daughters, who had decided to open a bookstore of her own and brought them along to the Canadian Booksellers Convention and trade show in Vancouver where they found themselves bitten by the “bookstore bug.” Shortly thereafter, the bookstore their daughter had been in the process of buying fell through when its owner decided to keep it. Lee and James proposed a solution: they would start a store on Galiano Island that she could run for a few years until they were ready to take it over. After they had begun this process, however, the original bookstore owner decided again to sell, and their daughter decided to buy. Lee and James went forward with their plan regardless, and the rest is history: Galiano Island Books has been open seven days a week ever since, with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s.
What's your favorite section of the store?
Lee Trentadue (co-owner and booksller): Oh my, this is a hard one. I’d to say fiction, although history, cooking, and mystery are right up there too.
Jim Schmidt (co-owner): It’s not exactly a section but I’d have to say special orders. I do all the special orders and find that they’re the ultimate source of great reader recommendations. It’s fascinating to see what people are interested in! The only downside is it’s hard to make money on them because I keep ordering so many second copies of the special orders so I can read them myself.
Elizabeth Olsen (bookseller): Definitely local interest and natural history; I love helping customers in these areas.
Jessica Brudner (bookseller): My favourite section at Galiano Island Books is our huge mystery section. I find myself getting lost in the options of the next great mystery novel to put on my to-read list!
Hanna Kaczerowska (bookseller): I like regional books and local stories/ It really introduces me as a foreigner to West coast BC and the people here.
If you had infinite space what would you add?
Lee: A wine bar! Oh, you mean books? I would expand the art book section and have large tables for people to peruse them.
Elizabeth: I’d add add a sitting area with cappuccinos, lattes, and teas for patrons. And a larger children’s area so children can sprawl out while their parents purchase piles of books for them.
Jessica: I would definitely add an upper level to the store with couches, a cafe and a place to relax and enjoy your recently purchased book. Maybe even add a grand piano for visual effect!
Hanna: I’d love people to spend more time in the bookstore, so I’d add area where they can sit down, maybe even some corner with some nice cozy couch and pillows, or benches outside (in the garden). Maybe we could even serve coffee and cookies. And also in the garden area for kids and adults, I’d build a yurt: a round tent where you can sit or lay down and read.
What do you do better than any other bookstore?
Lee: We don’t base our selection only on the books that we know are going to sell. We take a chance on the many wonderful books that might find that certain person who will be delighted to find them.
Jim: I think three things: We put service to our customers above monetary considerations; if we didn’t like a book we’ll tell them so and why. We think of the store as our second home and our customers as welcome guests. We love books and Lee goes to great lengths to bring in the best (as opposed to best-selling) books available in every field.
Elizabeth: Greeting customers and offering suggestions; our staff is knowledgeable. New arrivals are always highlighted, and we play music and offer gift-wrapping. There’s a laid-back attitude, island style. We’re tremendously friendly and all-inclusive.
Jessica: Our selection and catalogue is known to be quite extensive and our patrons notice how we’ve utilized our small space well enough to make our store is very inviting as well as offer a plethora of choices!
Who's your favorite regular?
Jim: It’s not exactly a direct answer, but I’d have to say the kids. Anyone who thinks there is no magic in books should spend a while in the kids’ section. Their love of books is truly amazing!
Elizabeth: So far, P.J. She’s so pleased with my assistance and attention and is always happy to see me there.
Elizabeth: My favourite regular customer is one of the islands teachers. She is always so friendly when she comes in, we have great conversation about children’s and youth titles, and she has been a wonderful source of support to the local bookstore.
What’s the craziest situation you’ve ever had to deal with in the store?
Jim: A customer wanted to special order a book. We located a copy and quoted him a price. He then called back and said that he’d found a bookstore in the lower mainland that had it at a slightly lower price (a dollar or two) and asked us to drop by there, buy the book for him, and then sell it to him at that price.
Jessica: A customer who was unaware of the title or the author’s name of a book she was hoping to purchase was becoming slightly frustrated that I wasn’t able to figure out what book she was referring to. I did my best at researching the keywords she provided but no luck: I couldn’t find anything related to what she wanted. After a lengthy attempt at helping her and to suggest other interesting titles that I thought she might enjoy, her response was to ask me if I would check the Chapters-Indigo website and see if they had the book she was looking for so she could then go home and order it online! Ah, the joys and wonders of working as an independent bookseller!
What’s your earliest/best memory about visiting a bookstore as a child?
Lee: My earliest memories of being introduced to books are through libraries. I really do not recall going to bookstores until in my teens, but then you could not get me out of them!
Jim: There was no bookstore where I grew up. The only books you could get were the standard mass market romance, mysteries and westerns at a newsstand my parents ran, so I guess I got into bookselling pretty young. I do remember getting catalogs from Barnes & Noble back when they were a single store in New York. It was wonderful ordering books and then waiting eagerly for them to arrive at the post office.
Elizabeth: Choosing Ladybird book from the shop assistant in our village on the Mersey. We’d go every week on Saturday morning with Nana.
Jessica: I remember my Grandmother taking me to a local children’s bookstore back in Toronto for what seemed like hours at a time. I also remember being introduced to classic novels from a very young age. My Dad bought me my first copy of Catcher in the Rye at the age of eight or nine with the hopes that I would be so fascinated with such a classic title and that my love of reading would flourish…which I can proudly say, it has!
If you weren’t running or working at a bookstore, what would you be doing?
Lee: Reading and traveling.
Jim: Sitting in my back yard reading all the books on my nightstand and piled elsewhere around the house. That should take me about 73 years.
Elizabeth: Reading, kayaking, and trying to write, a fictitious pursuit at best.
Jessica: My lifelong goal is to operate a not for profit animal sanctuary for rescued factory animals which would provide them with a peaceful and safe environment. I have very strong ethics when it comes to animal rights and the protection of endangered species. We as the species on top of the chain have a responsibility to take care of our fellow earthly friends.
What’s been the biggest surprise about running a bookstore?
Jim: Two really. First, I’ve discovered many areas where I’ve never read before and now love, like travel writing and history. Second, I’ve been surprised and impressed with the wide variety of reading that our customers of all ages and backgrounds do.
SLIDESHOW: Galiano Island Books Staff Recommendations