The Book Lady Thrives in Fenelon Falls
Characteristics that make for a good and potentially successful small business owner include flexibility, a sense of timing, passion, and a willingness to put in the hours and sweat equity necessary to make an enterprise thrive.
Dana Deathe (pronounced ‘deeth’) has always wanted to own a bookstore, and in particular the neat little bookstore nestled onto Market Street in the heart of Fenelon Falls. The City of Kawartha Lakes community has always been the home of Deathe’s family’s cottage, and thus a favourite spot to visit throughout her youth. A passionate and devoted bibliophile, books were not only Deathe’s passion from an early age, but also her vocation as she earned a master’s degree in Library and Information Science and worked for several years for an academic publisher in Calgary.
Coming to visit the family cottage in Fenelon Falls, she would always pop into the local community bookstore, a number of times mentioning that she would like to take it over some day if the owner ever chose to sell, figuring that this eventuality would not occur for many years.
Surprisingly, the opportunity arose much quicker, and pivoting her life and career arc with energy and fortitude, Deathe found herself to be the new owner of what she re-christened The Book Lady Bookshop and Literary Café, at 24 Market Street. This past April, Deathe celebrated the first anniversary of her new venture.
“I honestly thought it would be 10 or 15 years down the road because the previous owner was not that old. So, I thought I had some time to live out west and do my own thing for a bit. A couple of years ago my mom said, ‘oh you know the bookstore is for sale, what do you think?’ I said that I think it’s time to jump on it, because if I were to wait, I would regret it,” said Deathe, who lives above the bookstore, thus lowering her overall living expenses and overhead.
“I always wanted to have a bookstore. I have been a lifelong reader and collector and my dad would always joke with me asking what I was going to do with the dozens of boxes of books I still had in my parents’ basement. I kind of thought that I would retire and then have a used book store and chat with people about books and literature and stuff like that. I never realized it was going to come so early in my life, but that’s a good thing. And it’s definitely not a retirement lifestyle because I have never worked so hard in my entire life.”
In terms of product lines, The Book Lady features an excellent selection of used books across a wide variety of genres, as well as some affordably priced new books.
“I am a general bookstore. I have non-fiction, kids’ books, I’ve got a pretty strong spirituality and Christianity section to cater to my local demographic here. I have a lot of history books, general contemporary fiction and Canadian fiction, mainly because that’s my favourite thing and gets a lot of attention so I have a dedicated section for Canadian literature. And then there is a lot of genre fiction, including science fiction, fantasy and horror, as well as mystery, crime and romance,” she said, adding that during the warmer months besides a spate of delicious coffee and tea, she will also offer baked treats such as butter tarts.
Deathe continues working on creating more space for seating and gathering within the confines of the book shop as she wants it to become a bit of a hub, hopefully adding opportunities for author signings, book discussions and other events.
“I do want to make it more of a community space rather than just a business kind of thing. I am always looking for ways to engage more with the community.”
In the modern digital age, it may seem like an anachronism for someone to want to own and operate a bookstore, especially one in a small, rural community, bit Deathe said as far as she and her customers are concerned, print is alive and well. That being said, as any good entrepreneur, she did her due diligence before agreeing to buy the store.
“It had a proven business model for selling used books. I was able to chat in depth with the previous owner about the history of it and see his numbers business wise as well before I even came here. It was working, and business was very good and showed no signs of decline. I always had the idea that this was such a great location with so much potential,” Deathe said, adding that even though it is not on the main drag of Fenelon Falls, it is located very close to both the LCBO outlet and the post office, meaning a lot of traffic from locals and visitors alike.
“With Fenelon being a small town, we don’t have a Chapters or a Coles, so in terms of books, there’s me and the library and I am happy to work with the library because we have very, very different collections. People often go to both of us if they’re looking for something specific. We are a small town and people are on tight budgets so having new books would be a tough sell. And then the population swells so much in the summer time with cottagers and tourists, so many of these folks become my main clientele. They are here on vacation with free time, and they’re looking for something to do. They don’t have a library card, so they come to me.”
In a tight-knit community such as Fenelon Falls, earning and retaining business comes primarily through word of mouth, and that extends to fellow entrepreneurs in the local business community. Wanting to make a positive mark on the town as well as from a genuine desire to be involved in her adopted home, Deathe does whatever she can to encourage and support other businesses as well as community events.
“I am happy to refer people to other business, and one of the first things I did after I opened was get involved in the local Chamber of Commerce. I am currently on the board and am the director of communications which includes being the editor of the town newsletter. So, putting my name on that to say that I am the Book Lady and I am behind the Town Crier, it is great in terms of traction in people getting to know me, and trusting me as a business owner and community booster as well,” she said, adding that the friendliness and easy going pace of Fenelon Falls is very conducive to wanting to be immersed in community life.
“I find it inspiring. I am always busy being involved in the community, I am always doing something, which is great. I find that the people are more relaxed and it’s naturally a very beautiful place. We get sunsets that are unbelievable and sometimes it seems like you are looking at a painting it’s so incredible. What I love too is that everybody is really engaged and really committed to helping the community grow and helping small business prosper here, which is awesome.”
The Book Lady is open seven days a week throughout the summer, starting just after the Victoria Day long weekend, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. During the rest of the year the store/café is open from Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information, visit The Book Lady on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/danathebooklady, or call (705) 886-2665.
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