Boyle McCauley News

Since 1979 • April-May 2024 • Circulation 5000

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Paper Birch Books

McCauley welcomes independent used bookstore.

Benjamin Hertwig (left) and Céline Chuang, owners of Paper Birch Books. Jordon Hon

Paper Birch Books has been going strong since opening in Little Italy in December of 2022. Owners Benjamin Hertwig and Céline Chuang state on their website that they are bibliophiles. On a recent visit, Boyle McCauley News found this description to be entirely accurate.

The shop, located in the Piazza across from Zocalo, has an extensive stock of nonfiction and fiction, poetry, art and cookbooks, children’s books, graphic novels, and more. The books are attractively displayed on shelves built by Hertwig, with signage created by Chuang. The website states that the owners strive to offer stock “at a variety of price points, editions, and conditions.” The store has a high turnover of titles so there is always something new to look at.

The books are obtained via visits to people’s homes, estate sales, library sales, and any other locations that Chuang and Hertwig become aware of. “You can find rare and interesting books anywhere,” Hertwig says.

Chuang and Hertwig say their approach to marketing is primarily through word of mouth. They have dedicated neighbourhood regulars as well as customers from all over the world, either visiting as tourists or contacting the store online. This reporter introduced Merrill Distad, retired University of Alberta librarian, to Paper Birch. “I was impressed,” Distad says. “They have a well selected stock in many subject areas, as well as very fair and reasonable prices.”

The store welcomes everyone, even those who don’t have a lot of money to spend. For example, one regular, an AISH recipient who often comes to browse, has an arrangement for reserving a pile of books to be purchased at a later date, when funds permit. “It is important to us to be flexible,” Hertwig says. Hertwig and Chuang have also committed to redistributing a set portion of their proceeds each month to grassroots organizations addressing food insecurity and houselessness. The primary focus is on doing what suits the community – both business owners are huge fans of Edmonton and especially McCauley, where they live.

The meaning of the name “Paper Birch”

The name Paper Birch refers to the birch trees that grow in Alberta, which have bark that you can peel off and write on. The reference to writing/reading is clear, but Chuang and Hertwig also see it as recognition of the local environment.

Visit Paper Birch Books at 10825-95 St in Little Italy. Hours: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday.

Anita Jenkins is a retired writer and editor who lives in Boyle Street.

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