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Western Sky Books

Blog by Christine Tossa | November 1st, 2020

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” Mason Cooley

Western Sky Books does exactly what Cooley says . . . it transports us to places beyond where we are!  And thank goodness for that, especially during these times!

Western Sky Books is a bookstore, located at 2132-2850 Shaughnessy Street in Port Coquitlam!  They sell new and used books. They also have a gallery space which hosts local artists. Right now, the artist whose work is featured is Christine Mackenzie. Please go by to see her work!  Western Sky Books is looking forward to once more hosting literary events such as Words in the Burbs and Tri-City Poets once it is more safe for everyone to gather.  They also sell literary themed gifts and puzzles. The rest of the non-book giftwares in the store are made by local artists and craftspeople. For instance, they carry PoCo Soap, they are a pick up and drop off location for the FulFill Shoppe, and they have jewelry, bookmarks, buttons, ornaments, and artwork available.  They have it all and with Christmas around the corner, supporting local is a great thing!  

Western Sky Books wanted to build something that was completely their own, not tied to funding cycles or someone else’s idea of how to run things.  They wanted work that matched their values, and could become deeply rooted in the community.  They wanted to wake up every morning and WANT to work, feel passionate and glad to do it, no matter how hard it might be day to day.  And it turned out, Tamara and Dianne, the owners, both had dreams of opening bookstores at various times in their lives; it was definitely meant to be that Western Sky Books came to be! 

Tamara Gorin and Dianne Ganz own the business. Dianne was born and raised in Port Coquitlam, and Tamara moved back five years ago. Dianne worked in floral wholesale until this past September. Tamara worked in social services and is a graduate of the SFU Writer's Studio. Tamara attended the Douglas College Self Employment Program and it was through this program that they were able to launch Western Sky Books. They have adult children and grandchildren, and an amazing network of supportive friends who saw them through the transition into being small business owners. Tamara and Dianne both spent a lot of time in bookstores in their leisure time, and one day they looked at each other and said “Let’s open a bookstore!”  It took time and planning, and lots of hard work, but eventually they were able to make it happen!  

Western Sky Books opened in stages. They launched their online store in May 2017, set up stalls at the Port Coquitlam Farmers Market, the Market and Brewers Row (in Port Moody) the North Vancouver Night Market and various other events from June through to October. Then they opened the store at Shaughnessy Station Mall in Port Coquitlam the first week of November 2017. Their official third birthday is coming up soon!

Tamara and Dianne were able to get their first staff member, Molly, through a WorkBC/BC Centre for Disability wage subsidy program. This program allowed them to hire while continuing to build the business, and provided supports for Molly to return to work as well. This summer,  they worked with WorkBC once more to bring in their 2nd staff member, Ben, this time on a federal wage subsidy. This allowed them to hire a third staff member, Mackenzie, who is a youth coming into the workforce. Western Sky Books is a very small team of booksellers!  Western Sky Books are learning how to be accessible, progressive employers. Their goal is to be a Living Wage employer and to be a model for how to run a small retail storefront that puts employees front and centre and acknowledges their contributions to their  success.IMG_5735.JPG

While Western Sky Books is primarily a used bookstore, they have new books in the store and customers can place special orders for new books as well. Their entire inventory is online, so everyone can shop at whatever time works for them in their busy lives. They offer contactless pick-up with pre-paid orders and they also deliver for free in the Tri-Cities two days a week. They hope this makes it very easy for their customers to choose to support a local small business. And they keep a book request list; if they don't have a book you want today, they will search for it for you and let you know when it comes in.  Now that is amazing customer service!

Customers can bring small amounts of good condition used books to the store and receive credit which they then use towards 50% off their used book purchases. They can also come and pick up larger amounts of books when they are moving, cleaning up or clearing out, or managing an estate. And Western Sky Books has a points program, which gets you $10 off your books as soon as the points are accumulated. It is wonderful to be able to tell regular customers they are getting their books for free as a thanks for their loyalty! 

Gift cards are also available, so if you have a book lover in your life but you are unsure of their tastes, you can pick up a card made by a local artist and pop a gift card in for a perfect present - they get to browse and get their favourite books too! Great gift idea!

I asked Tamara, one of the owners, what was the best part of owning Western Sky Books, and this is what she shared:

“One day, about a year or so in to opening the store, I looked up and saw how many people were in the store, some quietly talking to each other, others simply browsing. It made my heart sing! A few weeks ago, someone came in looking for a very specific book, now out of print, from their own childhood. And we had it! They were so happy, beaming and excited to share this book with their grandchild! And during these last months, the number of people who came in the store and bought one book or 15 books, and explicitly said, "Port Coquitlam needs a used bookstore, I am so happy you are here, and open, I'll support you and shop local to keep you here," was overwhelming. We have been embraced by the community. All of this and more keeps us reinforced and striving to not only keep the doors open but get better and better at what we do.”

One of Western Sky Books goals is to have the very best customer service around. So they are always open to new ideas, requests, and suggestions for how to change what they do so that you will love shopping with them.  I think after reading what Tamara shared about the best part of owning the bookstore, it is safe to say that their customer service definitely goes above and beyond!  

You can check out Western Sky Books at www.westernskybooks.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/westernskybooks, and on Instagram @westernskybooks!  Go give them a visit at their store, which is open from 11am-4pm daily (check out their website or give them a call at 604.461.5602 for updates as they may open for longer hours soon).  

“The world belongs to those who read.”
Happy reading to you all, and thanks to Western Sky Books, you’ll always have a space to go get a book!