In what could easily become a dangerous hobby, I visited an Independent Bookstore this afternoon. The Sleuth of Baker Street, located at 907 Millwood Road, is well-known by many Torontonians, especially among the friendly community of Leaside.
The Sleuth is in the process of moving to its new location, which is probably a reflection of the hard times that booksellers are experiencing. The new site seems smaller and will certainly not receive the same level of pedestrian traffic, but the lease is most likely cheaper. The new location has space for customer parking, and the new store appears to be considerably less cluttered, judging by photos from the previous site on Bayview.
There is an intimate atmosphere inside the bookstore, and it is definitely an old school browsing experience. The perimeter of the store is adorned with attractive dark brown shelving, housing the majority of their crime, thriller and mystery stock. In the centre of the store are tables featuring displays of their premium stock: hardcovers, new titles and other books of interest.
I noticed a few items of stock that appeared to not normally be available in Canada. Perhaps these were second-hand items, but it is worth looking through the shelves to find books in unusual formats that you might not otherwise be able to pick up.
Prices in the store were somewhere in the region of average to high, but the selection of mystery books was excellent. No doubt, there are titles available at The Sleuth that you would not find in stock elsewhere in Toronto without having to wait on an order.
The gentleman working that day, J.D. Singh, was friendly and helpful. He greeted me as I entered and he engaged with a couple of regular customers who entered the store, introducing them to new titles from authors he knew that they liked. He also chatted about the new premises with his guests, and he bid me a friendly and genuine farewell when I left, even though I did not make a purchase at his store.
A soundtrack played in the background, of eerie spooky music. I couldn’t decide how I felt about it. Part of me thought that, if you are going to have a bit of novelty, go the whole hog! Have a mystery theme in the store! Pictures of Sherlock Holmes, a chalk outline on the floor! Or maybe not… Perhaps the purpose of the music, and the fact it was fairly discreet, was to keep the store intimate, without making it feel like a library where near silence is required. But there might be a soundtrack out there that is a little better. Maybe I wasn’t there long enough to hear the best of the audio on offer!