Photoshoots with Eddy
Eddy and his Book Store
Visiting used bookstores has always been a much-loved pastime for us. We would go to Niagara on the Lake for a play and during spare time, wander around looking for decent used book stores. We would go to Peterboro for a lakeside cabin holiday, and when we could, go looking for used bookstores. There is something wonderful about used books. You never know what treasure you might uncover.
Even though technology gives us the gift of reading books on our various devices, for me, nothing beats holding an actual book in my hands and leafing through the pages. I love the smell and the feel of a book, and especially of old books. Aside from simply having the experience of checking out the books, used book stores give one the chance of obtaining some really great books for a fraction of the new book prices.
Sadly, here in the GTA, the used bookstores are disappearing. There used to be several in the west end of Toronto, which have since gone. Likewise in Mississauga. No doubt with landlords jacking up rent, and a reduction in the book-buying demographic, it has become unprofitable to run such stores.
It was a real buzz for us when we discovered Eddy’s bookstore in the Junction area of Toronto, back in 2015.
Eddy’s store was called Dencan Books, and was located at 3113 Dundas Street West, Toronto ON, Canada. The store was at the Malta* end of the Junction, close to Clendennan Ave, and just outside of the local Business Improvement Association’s area.
So anyway, there in the middle of this curious community, in a mix of old and new, was Dencan Books.
So why would one want to browse a store where the aisle space is too narrow for one person, let alone two? Why would it be so much fun to struggle past shelves piled to overflowing, boxes filled to overflowing and no apparent organization at all?
I think there were two determining factors: 1) Eddy himself and 2) the wide variety of books that he kept in stock.
Probably the most astounding thing about Eddy is how he knew exactly where every item in his store was to be found, something that was definitely not obvious to the casual visitor. This baffled many people since it was hard to imagine how he could possibly know where anything was in that jumble. But he was always ready to find a book you wanted and could go straight to a jumbled pile and extract what you wanted. Another thing, Eddy was great about keeping an eye out for special books you might have wanted, if he didn’t have it.
There was rarely a time one visited that Eddy didn’t have at least one bad joke, more likely several. He was always ready with a quick crack and could almost always answer any questions one might have had about a book or a movie.
With books piled so high on the cash counter, Eddy sat there almost completely hidden. He used an incredibly old and completely manual cash register, which was also completely hidden.
The store was a bit of a hangout for some interesting characters. Some of them tried to convince Eddy to take more books in, and would bring cardboard boxes filled to overflowing with assorted books and magazines. Some would come and try to pawn off used DVDs. Some just hung about in corners looking over books, rarely buying. A few of the more disreputable ones would try to get money from Eddy, which they always said was just a loan. Sometimes they hung about near the counter engaging Eddy and any nearby customers in desultory conversations. Eddy just rolled his eyes.
The bookstore itself had existed for 50 years. When we first met him, Eddy had been the owner for a mere 20 years.
At some point my photographer husband got the bright idea to take a bunch of photos in the store and help Eddy to create an online presence. Eddy felt that he wasn’t getting much online traction and liked the idea. Bruce tried to help him create an instagram account.
We picked a day and came in to take photos. Avoiding getting tripped by the assorted boxes and piled up books was tricky. Getting Eddy to be still long enough for Bruce to take a portrait was even trickier.
Bruce actually did three shoots at Dencan books. One early on when the place was still a big mess, another later, after Eddy went into a big cleanup frenzy, and one where they used a model.
The plan to try to get Eddy on instagram, etc, never really worked out well. However, Bruce did get some really nice shots, and learned more about photographing in less than perfect lighting conditions.
In 2017 Eddy went on a reorganization and cleanup jag.
With some help from a friend, soon many of the overfull boxes of books that usually lined the aisles were cleared out. His plan was to lose the cookbooks and gardening books, which he said no one was buying anyway (except for one person who protested loudly at the elimination of the cookbooks).
He used to have quite large collection of music CDs — these all went, and he planned to totally eliminate the DVD collection, which was very disappointing to us.
Eddy said that he wanted to concentrate on literature — philosophy — history — religion — science — art and photography — current fiction — and a couple other specialized things upon which he had yet not decided. Sadly, these plans were destined to never be realized.
The Junction area had begun to change.
A few stores and restaurants that we had always enjoyed, closed.
Landlords, seeing an opportunity to improve their bottom line, started hugely raising rents on long-time tenants as soon as their current leases came up for renewal. Eddys’ landlords wanted to make changes to the building, and would also be raising the rent. Seeing the writing on the wall, Eddy decided to close down the store.
This was very sad news for us. Eddys store was always a destination for us when we went to the Junction. (We were usually there a couple of times per month to visit our chiropractor.)
Now there is a bicycle store where the bookstore used to be, Eddy has effectively retired from the retail business.
We are very glad that we had the opportunity to meet and get to know Eddy. A very nice person.
There had been a plan to do some quirky photoshoots in Eddy’s store, possibly even right in the display window. Bruce had an idea to bring a couple models around the store and posed in the window. Eddy seemed to get cold feet and a date for the shoot was never set.
I call it the Malta end because the Malta Recreation centre, various Maltese bakeries and a small parkette called Malta Park are nearby. As a point of interest, the west Toronto Junction has the largest community of Maltese outside of Malta. It now numbers approximately eight to ten thousand. Maltese businesses and other organisations cater to the community. It was through the Maltese community combining its efforts that the small parkette at St. John’s Road and Dundas Street West was named Malta Park in recognition of the Maltese community.