Grafton Books closes its doors

Popular book seller can’t hang onto Oak Bay business

Clive and Christine Tanner begin the packing process in the former Grafton Bookshop on Oak Bay Avenue.

Clive and Christine Tanner begin the packing process in the former Grafton Bookshop on Oak Bay Avenue.

Too few customers has spelled the death knell for another Oak Bay business.

Clive and Christine Tanner have owned Grafton Bookshop for just four months, but closed the Oak Bay Avenue shop at the end of April.

On Sunday, April 29, the couple, with son Peter and grandson Malcolm, were carrying shelves from the basement to a moving van.

Jill Grafton had been the couple’s partner in Beacon Books in Sidney but decided to venture out on her own, opening Grafton Books in 1999. She sold the shop in 2004 to Kathie Walters of Abe Books who sold it to the Tanners and their son, Marc, in 2008. His parents purchased it from him in January.

“We can run many stores but the business just doesn’t seem to be here, unfortunately,” Clive said. “In our view this is the best-looking bookstore in the Victoria area, a lovely store, but we just can’t afford to keep carrying it.”

Christine pointed out that Sidney is a destination for book lovers, especially in the summer with boaters, but Oak Bay Avenue does not seem to be.

The shop made money in 2008, broke even the following year but has been going downhill since, with the advent of e-readers.

“It didn’t matter what we did: sales, better books. It’s just not here in Oak Bay,” she said.

The Tanners lived in Oak Bay in the early 1980s but established Sidney’s reputation as a booktown in the early 1990s, modeling it on the first booktown, Hay-on-Wye, in England. With the Tanners’ encouragement Sidney now boasts close to a dozen book stores.

They once owned five shops, but are now down to three. They may open another with what’s left from Grafton.

“Never say never,” Christine said. “The used and antiquarian book business is so interesting and that’s why we’ve been with it all of these years.”