Grizzly Books & Serendipity Shop to close

Owner Vanessa Smith says it was a difficult decision to close the bookstore that has run out of its Mackenzie Avenue location for two decades

Vanessa Smith and Shakespeare at three-months-old. Photo: Vanessa Smith.

Way back in 1999, Vanessa Smith stepped into an unfamiliar business when she opened the doors of the Grizzly Books & Serendipity Shop. Now, more than 20 years later, Smith has made the incredibly difficult decision to close up shop.

It is with a very heavy heart that I regret to inform you that I will be closing Grizzly Books & Serendipity Shop at the end of January 2021. This has not been an easy decision, just as 2020 has not been an easy year. As I try to convey how hard this decision is, I reminisce about all the amazing years I’ve had enjoying my special store,” said Smith.

In a phone conversation with the Mountaineer, Smith admitted the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was a major factor in her decision to close. Smith said during the first wave of the pandemic, the doors to Grizzly Books closed on March 17, 2020 and did not re-open until June 28, 2020. It was a tough go to get everything in place and up to WorkSafe BC’s new standards to ensure employee safety related to COVID-19.

“My main concern was my staff. I wanted to make sure my staff were safe and healthy and happy,” said Smith, who noted that sales over the summer were a quarter of what the store usually sees over those months, with the store’s overhead costs remaining the same.

 “It was a very difficult decision [to close]. I’ve had so many positive responses from the community, from local businesses saying they are also struggling. They know it was a difficult decision. The support of friends and the community has been amazing.”

While Smith is saying goodbye to Grizzly Books & Serendipity Shop, she isn’t going anywhere. She still owns the building that housed the popular book store and has already leased the space to a local company, that will takeover starting February.

Here, in Smith’s own words, she says goodbye and shares fond  memories of Grizzly Books & Serendipity Shop;

In 1999 — wow that was along time ago — I stepped into an unfamiliar business that bristled with potential. At that time the internet was just emerging in Revelstoke, so I was compelled to use a Microfiche machine. Thank goodness that didn’t last more than a year.

To the store I brought my best friend Basil; what a special addition he was. Running to the door to meet the customers, babies crawling on him, pulling his ears and snuggling against his large body. Even our infamous Les loved that dog. He’d come in, sit on the floor and cradle Basil in his arms while tears of love flowed down his face. Basil was a fixture and many a customer would poke their head in the door asking if he was in. Then along came Shakespeare in 2011, another great attribute to the bookstore.

The store went from a small, underdeveloped business to a thriving, one-of-a kind bookstore. A few walls painted and shelves dusted, then loaded with great reads, and the store began to flourish. Of course the business would never have been as successful as it was without the support of the local community and my amazing, resilient staff.

As time went on, a student program offered me the opportunity to hire a student, which I did and gainfully employed them for a three year period. The transformation from Grade 10 to graduation was astounding. I had one young gal who tried using a mop, to no avail, and had to learn the art of how to “swoosh” the mop over the floor. She is now a university graduate and thriving in an English, academic world. Others blossomed before my eyes from shy, unsure individuals to confident outgoing sales clerks. It was very special to see the growth and maturity in these young adults.

Besides my accomplished students, I have had and still have the best staff any owner could ask for. They have seen me through thick and thin, lean times, crazy busy times and memorable times. We’ve laughed together, shared meals together and worked hard together. I could not and would not be as successful in my business without the orchestra; always in tune, caring and devoted. Most of all I would like to thank each and every one of my customers. I know this store is special and you have supported it unequivocally and with zealous enthusiasm. For this I am grateful. I will miss each and every one of you, our rapport, conversations, recommendations and most importantly your avid enthusiasm for the art of reading.

With a tearful adieu I leave you with a quote from the heart: “Goodbye may seem forever. Farewell is like the end, but in my heart is the memory and there you will always be.” ~ Disney

Grizzly Books & Serendipity Shop closes at the end of January.

This post was published by a member of the Revelstoke Mountaineer staff. Stories published under the staff byline include news briefs, stories that consist mostly of media releases, social media post shares, and stories by contributors with the author's name listed in the body of the story.