Vancouver loses another player in its literary scene as one of its last independent bookstores prepares to shutter its retail storefront on West Hastings St. at the end of May.
Sophia Books is the only multilingual bookstore in B.C. and in Canada selling publications and audiovisual material in English, French, Japanese, German, Spanish and Italian. Current owners Marc Fournier and his wife Yuki are being forced to close their 35-year-old family-owned business due to rising costs and declining sales. Fournier said the new building owner is increasing their rent by about 30 per cent more.
“[Vancouver] is a city in which the price of commercial space is not in synch with the size of the population,” said Fournier, adding the economy has been bad for the last couple of years as well.
“My sales were down 60 per cent in February compared to last year,” he said, adding February 2010 was particularly bad for retailers despite all the people downtown.
“They were only buying beer, pizza and mittens,” Fournier said about the thousands of people downtown during February. Other businesses in Gastown were also empty. Fournier said half his customers left the country and the other half stayed home during the month. Other customers are loyal but they are being forced to move out to the suburbs where it is affordable and they don’t come downtown as much. Then there are the customers that are just in town for two or three years.