Wee Book Inn
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Par Becky Hagan-Egyir

A shelter for joy

On the lively Whyte Avenue within a historic brick building, is the Wee Book Inn. It’s a beloved bookstore with an unwavering goal: to preserve the joy found in reading books and to shelter those who love reading them. Here, the books come in many varieties, from science fiction to popular science and sobering histories to Homeric epics. There’s a feeling close to magic running through its aisles and floor-to-ceiling shelves.

Wee Book Inn makes it easy to forget that the book industry has been “in a lot of turmoil for quite a while now,” says co-owner Carey Luxford. “There was a lot of pessimism with e-books taking away a lot of the market, but I think we’ve come out of a lot of those technological pressures.” And Carey is not opposed to e-books, but when it comes down to it, for him, there’s nothing quite like holding a book and engaging with the worlds you can feel in-between its pages. It’s a sentiment he first learned from his parents, Leola and Darwin Luxford.

Carey hasn’t always been “as well read as people might think,” he says. But, he’s always had a great respect towards learning from books. It began during his youth, when he would spend his days with his family at Wee Book Inn locations. Carey recalls the “awesome intuition” that went into planning and running a successful book-lover’s utopia – a dream that began in 1971, when his father opened the first bookstore. With time, three charming and distinct Wee Book Inn locations became staples along Whyte Avenue, Alberta Avenue and its most recent venture on Jasper Avenue downtown. When Darwin and Leola passed away, Carey and his brother continued in their parents’ respected legacy.

What you put out there really affects what people put back at you. - Carey Luxford, co-owner
There is another well-known and beloved feature at Wee Book Inn that draws customers in: cats.
There is another well-known and beloved feature at Wee Book Inn that draws customers in: cats. Each store has a pet cat to continue an old tradition of having cats roam bookstores to ward off mice. And in keeping with the Luxford family tradition, each cat is named after Montreal Canadien hockey players. Photo by Becky Hagan-Egyir
The Whyte Avenue location has a youthful-like character.
Carey sees each Wee Book Inn as having a distinct personality based on its surrounding environments and demographic. As a result, he sees the Whyte Avenue location as having a youthful-like character.

The challenges and rewards of change

At the Whyte Avenue location, Carey has experienced a job that is “not without its challenges,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of good book sellers leave our market in the last several years.” With the bookstores that have closed down, there has also been a need to navigate how much and what items to accept – which, at one time, could be sent to a fellow bookstore in the area. “We buy from the public,” Carey explains, “so the volume of [books] coming in for us to purchase becomes an exercise in diplomacy for staff.” In the end, the staff can only accept so much.

But what they do accept only adds to the character of unique finds you can find at the Whyte Avenue location. A positive response is seen in the way customers stay and wander through from early in the day until midnight. Change will continue to affect the book market, but Wee Book Inn will also continue its role as a cultural gathering place. And it largely comes down to the law of attraction. “What you put out there really affects what people put back at you,” Carey says. “And it’s not easy [running a bookstore]. But if you can pull it off, it’s very rewarding.”

The original Whyte Avenue location burned down in a fire, which also destroyed a large part of the block and its infrastructure in 1990.
The original Whyte Avenue location burned down in a fire, which also destroyed a large part of the block and its infrastructure in 1990. Carey remembers the long process of rebuilding and the efforts his parents put into opening their new store in its present location. These are the kinds of memories that help drive Carey in the work he does as co-owner of the store today.
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