‘You don’t see a lot of stores like this’: Sidney’s Beacon Books closing for good

'You don't see a lot of stores like this': Sidney's Beacon Books closing for good
Beacon Books in Sidney is pictured.

A longtime bookseller in Sidney is ready to close a 25-year-long chapter with just weeks to go until she shutters her beloved business for good.

Beacon Books on Beacon Avenue West in Sidney will be permanently closed effective Jan. 31, 2024, after operating there since 1996, according to owner Christine Tanner, who says it feels like the end of the era for her family.

Because for the Tanners, Beacon holds a lot of memories. Christine opened the store alongside her husband, Clive Tanner, who passed away on Sept. 9, 2022.

“Basically, all our family has worked in our bookstores,” recalled Christine, who also opened nearby Tanner’s Books. “At one time, we had about four of them, and our sons and daughter and a couple of our grandchildren.”

Beacon has been a unique staple for the Vancouver Island community because, at the 4,000-square-foot store, customers can get their hands on “a lot of old, collectable books,” notes Christine. “It’s more in the range of valuable books, as opposed to Tanner’s, which is new books.”

Sidney is often referred to as Canada’s bookstore capital, and Christine says some people even got their break at Beacon.

“Over the years, we’ve had younger people come in who worked part-time, and then they became regular employees,” she said. “And now they’re in the book business somewhere else. An English woman was with us for almost 20 years.”

So, with an extensive collection of English, French and even German books, she says people from all over step through the store’s famous red Dutch door and are immersed in a world of literature.

“You don’t see a lot of stores like this,” Christine told CHEK News.

“Every day, you don’t know what to expect. We get a lot of tourists in the summertime, so we get a lot of interesting people. It’s never that fusty old bookstore that you read about in some books. It’s always alive.”

And for some, the store has become quite comfortable.

“We’ve had people who are retired, and they’ll be sitting in a chair for an hour or two, and we don’t like to ask them to leave. Eventually, they fall asleep in the chair. That’s one of the things that we get,” laughed Christine.

Packing up the products

While the store may be closing, the inventory won’t be gone for good. It’s all being picked up and moved to B.C.’s mainland, according to Christine.

“We’ve actually been bought out,” she said.

“All of our inventory has been bought out by a bookstore in a town called Creston. A small town. And they’re coming in to pick everything up, even the fixtures, and they’re taking them to the new place.”

The Beacon Books website states the store is home to “a fascinating variety of Canadiana, literature, popular fiction, fantasy and sci-fi, mystery, and historical fiction, as well as contemporary best-sellers in hardcover and paperback.”

It adds “a deep and varied collection of non-fiction books including history, military, nautical, travel, arts & crafts, nature and biography” also fill the store’s shelves.

So in the new year, “the buyers are coming in with professional packers, and they’re going to put everything in cartons and take it away,” explained Christine.

Now, she’s eager to do what she loves most.

“Catch up on my reading,” she laughed. “I’m retiring from the active book-selling role I’ve had for so many years. I know I’ll miss it a bit, but I have loads of books at home. The walls are pretty well lined with them.”

Add in gardening and the desire to write a book of her own, it’s an exciting change for the bibliophile that’s also prompting her to pause and reflect.

“I’ve had such a good career here. I’ve been here 20 years and then another 15 to 20 years at Tanner’s Bookstore. I think it’s one of the most fulfilling ways to make a living, really,” she added.

“You never get rich, but it’s entertaining and interesting.”

(Christine Tanner is pictured.)

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Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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