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Astro Books is closing


I'm very sad to report that Astro Books (Librairie Astro) in Montreal is going to be closing this summer. I believe the formal date is July 1st. Paul Stock and his sister Betty Stock Handleman, the owners, have tried pretty much everything to keep the store afloat, but it was not to be.

It's frustrating, especially when the decision is being made for you. As Paul noted on Astro's website, "It seems our *pfui* old landlord sold the building in October of 2017, and didn't even have the courtesy to let us know. We made contact with the new owners in January, but were unable to come to any mutually acceptable terms, so we have to be out (which means the place has to be empty) by July 1st., which is exactly 31 years since the day we started setting up here...It's been a lot of fun (and a lot of work), but frankly neither Mary, Betty, Mark, nor I, at ages 67, 72, 74 and 68 are in the kind of shape needed to start over with a new location."

Global News, in an article on the situation, added "Last October, the building that houses the bookstore was sold to a new owner, who decided to up their monthly rent from $3,500 to $9,500 — a cost Handleman said the store simply can’t afford."

If you know retail, you'll understand exactly how much stuff you'd have to sell to cover that type of increase. It's not tenable. René Bruemmer of the Montreal Gazette wrote a great summary of the situation (full disclosure: I'm interviewed for the piece). Bruemmer's article is actually from last year and covered the first shock: a higher municipal tax bill lead to the then landlord beginning to increase rent to recoup it. That situation has continued with the new landlord and, sadly, has forced Astro to close.

Update: Paul did add the following on Astro's website, "We've gotten a substantial amount of press since we announced the store's closing. Unfortunately, they've all focused on a rent increase as the reason. While we couldn't handle a jump to the new landlord's asking of $9500 a month, we had made the decision to shut down well before that number came up. In fact the number came as a result of a prospective store buyer making the call to the rental agent. It's probably true, but it makes no difference to us. We're finished any way you look at it. The actual reason is that neither Mark, Betty, Mary nor I are physically capable of putting in the kind of effort needed to get the place flying again. To everything there is a season, and this happens to be the winter of our working lives."

If you're in Montreal (or will be over the next two months or so), I'd strongly encourage you to go. It's a great store full of quirky titles and hard to find treasures that you might not come across anywhere else. It's part of what I loved about the store and something that will be very, very difficult to replace.

Astro Books (Librairie Astro)
1844 rue Ste-Catherine Ouest
Montréal, Que. H3H 1M1
(métro Guy)

http://www.astrolib.com

Oh, and here's a pic of me at Astro from a few year's back:

Photo of Von Allan at Montreal's Astro Books (Librairie Astro)

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