Thirty-four-year-old Justin Daniel Wood remembers his first vintage book.
“I bought a first edition of The Handmaid’s Tale with $20 in change,” he laughs.
A few years later, after Margaret Atwood’s novel was adapted for television, the first edition became very sought after and he sold it online for $150.
That made him realize he might be able to make a living in buying and selling books.
Which eventually led him to creating a bookstore, The Scribe, at 375 Danforth Ave.
With a Dec. 1 launch date in mind, Wood and his staff are currently renovating and stocking the space that formerly held the Lumen Studio spa and, before that, the Jexy and Jax store of Canadian-made products.
The Greektown stretch of Danforth already has three popular bookstores — Book City, Re: Reading, and Circus — but Wood says The Scribe is different in that it focuses on rare and vintage books, ranging in price from $10 to $1,000.
He chose the Riverdale location because he thinks it’s a community that would appreciate the beauty and artistry of books, which he likens to the appreciation of vinyl records with their quality and artistic design. And he’s received an enthusiastic welcome to the area from people who have dropped by as he’s been setting up the store.
He also looks forward to educating potential collectors on what makes certain books valuable.
Wood’s own education came from working in the business since he was 26, apprenticing at Alexandre Antique Prints, Maps and Books on Mt. Pleasant Road and at Contact Editions on Davenport Road, as well as trading books online himself and at book fairs.
But through it all he always wanted to run a shop of his own.
“I told my parents I’m not going to be happy until I have a store,” he says.
He wasn’t sure he’d be able to afford it though, since good locations are pricey in Toronto. But this year COVID has suddenly brought rents down to an affordable level, and he found the location of his dreams.
“I’m so thrilled,” Wood says. “I love the space. I love the people walking by who are so excited.”
He has just become the youngest member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Canadian.
Rare books not super-expensive
The Scribe will have about 4,000 books on its shelves, as well as on tables where people can pick them up to look at. Some of the most expensive items will be behind glass, but Wood wants to dispel the notion that rare and vintage books are for the most part untouchable.
He wants people to experience the thrill of holding a piece of history in their hands, he says. And he wants to train them on how to hold and examine the more precious volumes.
He also wants to reach young people who might feel intimidated by valuable old books and show them that “rare books are not super-expensive.”
He’s setting up a section at the back of the store for discounted books, priced at $5.
With the latest pandemic shutdown preventing in-store sales, The Scribe will likely spend most of its first month in business after Dec. 1 doing curbside sales, as it builds up to an in-store launch by Christmas or in the new year, Wood says.