The Bookworm Tour

Welcome to “Rediscovering Niagara”! This is a new series here on the Your Niagara Home blog
that takes a look at attractions in the Niagara, whether they be well-known or obscure.
For my debut post, I chose to look into something I had no idea existed until recently: The
Bookworm Tour of St. Catharines. This self-guided tour visits several bookstores throughout the city,
with a focus on the Downtown district. I decided to take a day to explore this literary trail with my
mother, our family’s resident bookworm, because I viewed it as a great way to support local businesses
while also getting some exercise.

The Book Outlet in Welland Ave in St. Catharines

Our first stop was Book Outlet on Welland Avenue, easily the largest of the bookstores on our
tour. Also known as Book Depot to many Niagara residents, Book Outlet purchases overstocked and
returned books from various publishers sells them to customers at discounted prices. Other products
such as puzzles, board games, and a plethora of book-related memorabilia can also be found inside.
Customers can fill up a given box with as many books as they can fit for a low, fixed fee during the
store’s famous Box Sales. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these sales have
been put on hold for the foreseeable future, but make checking them out a priority when they make its
big return. I left with three books, while Mom left with two. After the obligatory stop by the Tim
Horton’s down the road, we make our way downtown.

Next was The Write Bookshop on St. Paul Street, one of my personal favourite places to visit in
St. Catharines. The store was originally owned and operated by the late Hannelore Headley as an
expansion of her first bookstore which we visited later on in our tour. Her brother-in-law Stephen
Heinemann and his wife Fran Merion now run the store. Once you’ve stepped inside, you’ll be floored
at the sight of just how many books are inside this smaller, two-story building. There’s books on
shelves, piles of books on the floor and on tables, books piled on top of one another, book everywhere.
One could spend hours finding books in this labyrinth-like shop, but on this particularly muggy day, we
decided to be brisk in our browsing. Mom left with five books and I left with three.

After stopping for lunch, we made our way to Someday Books on King Street. Someday
replaces Booksmart Books on the itinerary after the latter became an online-only story during the
pandemic. Someday Books is the newest of the stores we visited, having opened in the November of
2019 after owners Elysia French and Graham Thompson won that year’s Win This Space
entrepreneurial competition
. Though it’s smaller than the other stores on the tour, Someday’s space is
the most welcoming and allows its customers to peruse its diverse selection of books in peace and
quiet. With our feet quickly getting worn out, we left Someday Books with two books each.

We arrived at our last stop, Hannelore Headley’s Old & Fine Books on Queen Street, ready to
find our books, wrap up the tour and head home. Then my excitement was rekindled when we entered
the store and once again discovered books in every conceivable corner of the building, much like The
Write Bookshop, which is no coincidence. As I touched upon before, the two stores shared once an
owner in Hannelore Headley, with this store being the older of the two having been a fixture of the St.
Catharines book scene since the early 1970’s. I found just two books to cap off the day, while Mom
found three. While checking out, I told the woman at the register about this Bookworm Tour and we
both expressed hope that maybe, just maybe, brick and mortar bookstores could be around for many
years to come.

After returning home, Mom eagerly gathered up all the books we collected and set them up for
a photo-op. What do you think of our haul?

If you’re interested in undertaking the Bookworm Tour yourself, here are some tips and tricks to
keep in mind when preparing:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk up streets and store aisles for most of the tour.
  2. Check the weather forecast. Plan to go on a day you and your tour partner(s) might be as
    comfortable outside as you are inside.
  3. Find an optimal parking spot downtown and be prepared to pay a fee. On weekends, many
    parking spaces in the are are free. If you’re parking inside a garage, don’t lose your ticket!
  4. COVID-19 prevention measures are in place in all the stores. Masks are mandatory, social
    distancing is required, and hand sanitizer is available at every storefront.
  5. There’s a menagerie of restaurants and cafes downtown to choose from if you want to stop for
    lunch, dinner, or just a cup of coffee some time during your tour.
  6. Take your time, have fun, and enjoy supporting local businesses!

    Tour overview
    Niagara at Large article on Hannelore Headley’s and The Write Bookshop
    The St. Catharines Standard’s article on Someday Books
    Book Outlet’s “About Us” page

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