A newspaper clipping from The Book Keeper’s grand opening on September 27, 1980 hangs on the wall in Susan Chamberlain’s office. The store’s history is often front-of-mind for her. The Book Keeper originally opened in Northgate Plaza and has moved to different locations within the plaza throughout the years. In 2001, Chamberlain purchased the store from owner Kathy Mitchell, and in 2010 the store moved to its current location. Not every community has a thriving independent bookstore. “It says a lot about the city and the customer support that we’ve had over the years,” Chamberlain explains.
The Book Keeper carries a wide selection of books and places hundreds of special orders weekly. Customers can look up current inventory or reserve a book on the website, www.sarniabookkeeper.com. If you can’t find what you are looking for, one of the employees would be happy to help. Each staff member brings a unique and extensive knowledge of books, and they are especially good at making recommendations. “During the busy holiday season, customers bring in a list with the ages of each of their nieces and nephews and the staff will make suggestions,” Chamberlain says. Alongside the wide selection of books, giftware, board games, and jewelry are also available. Chamberlain saw the local demand for these items at Poppies, the gift shop inside Bluewater Health that she opened in 2010, at the same time as the Book Keeper was moving to its larger location. These additions have allowed the Book Keeper to become the ideal place to shop, not only for book lovers, but for anyone who appreciates a unique gift.
The Book Keeper maintains a strong relationship with the community. Their current location allows them the space and flexibility to host many unique events. They sell Coffee Lodge coffee and snacks in the store. They want customers to feel comfortable enough to spend time browsing. They also offer unique experiences to the local reading community. Chamberlain has invited several famous authors to Sarnia for book signings. Some of the most notable authors include retired NHL star Darryl Sittler, General Romeo Dallaire, and Commander Chris Hadfield, all of whom have done signings recently. When the events are too large to be accommodated in the bookstore, signings are often held at the Sarnia Library Theatre, DeGroots Nurseries and other local venues. Three stars from CBC’s Dragon’s Den have also visited Sarnia in recent years: Kevin O’Leary, Arlene Dickenson and Sarnia’s own David Chilton.
The Book Keeper is proud to support many local community organizations and events. Two recent donations will help many people in the county. Profits from the sale of Joseph Boyden’s book, Wenjack, were donated to the Aamjiwnaang Heritage Culture Club. The Book Keeper has also donated $3,000 worth of books and board games to The Hub, a drop-in centre for youth ranging from 16-24 years old and involving over thirty-one local service organizations. “The Hub is a wonderful, much-needed addition to our community and we’re happy to support it,” Chamberlain adds.