Friction Books launches in Dartmouth with micro footprint
Posted on October 14, 2021 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 0 Comments
Eric Stephen Martin is the manager of Friction Books. It is both Nova Scotia’s newest community-based bookseller and a new, independent seller online. The company is carefully selecting recommendations for a bit of a different shopping experience and shipping anywhere in Canada.
The physical footprint is “small,” Martin acknowledges without hesitation, filling just a corner of an 800-square-foot, multi-retail space at 45 Portland Street in Dartmouth, N.S. That multi-retail space was launched in 2015 as The New Scotland Yard Emporium, incorporating a coffee shop alongside an existing and independent record sales operation, with a barber eventually on site as well. But the barber departed and the all-encompassing name was retired by owner Joel Plaskett in a recent rebranding and refresh, offering the building marquee entirely to the individual businesses within the building.
The coffee shop counter is still there. It has rebranded and established itself as Morley’s, honouring long-time barista and manager Brendan Morley. The building remains home to one of the three Taz Records locations and to Plaskett’s music recording studio, situated past the retail space at the back. The studio is managed by Thomas Stajcer and rebranded as Fang, named after Plaskett’s earless cat, White Fang.
The book business is the new addition, described with the tagline: “A Flicker of Fiction at 45 Portland.” The physical shop will carry only 500 to 600 units, books, at any given time, Martin explained. It was planned with Plaskett, the owner, as an addition to the overall artistic hub, being another tactile experience alongside the coffee options and record-flipping, but also offers a “highly-curated” selection and recommendations Martin hopes will cultivate a unique relationship with readers in Dartmouth and the region more broadly.
Q: You only have 500 to 600 spaces, so how do you pick what’s stocked? How do you curate?
“So Joel is into a lot of crime and I’m into a lot of horror fiction. We narrowed it down to just fiction pretty much immediately because we wanted the shop to play on imagination and things where we’re kind of an art space (…) Then we wanted to be inclusive, so we did a lot of research on world classics. We just first went through a list of books that we love and then we asked our customers books that they love – little-known books that they love, local books that they love – so it kind of just snowballed from there. Then we had people coming in and recommending to us what we should carry [if we started the business]. That led to us doing a lot of reading as well, which was also nice in the summer. But the main ‘how we pick it’ is that it’s in the fiction realm and things we generally think are cool.”
Q: Where do you get your books?
“We have Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Raincoast (…) It took us a little bit of research. Frankly we didn’t know anything about the distribution of books. Obviously everybody hears about publishers and things and we knew each book has their own publisher just like each record has their own record label but with distribution it was another matter where Penguin might be distributed by somebody else, a Penguin book, but also be distributed by Penguin. So that was a learning experience for us. But we have accounts with all the major distributors in Canada now.”
Q: How do you curate the website, or keep the same spirit as the physical shop in the shop online?
“Everything that comes in, I’m inputting into Shopify with the photos as well. And we really spent a lot of time on the website. I think it came together well. But Shopify, it was easier than I expected. I had some knowledge of Shopify. I’d used it before for another job I work, but I’d never built a site from the ground up from it. Obviously, we had help from a coder but it came together in a way that worked really well. And you can use Apple Pay through the site and then we just get it on the back end and we ship.”
Q: I noticed a report on the launch mentioning you’d like to become an alternative to Amazon?
“At least locally. And books we carry may not be available on Amazon. Especially, we have a very small smattering of mystical non-fiction that we have heavily curated. That’s something we’re interested in, me and Joel particularly. I’m not sure if anyone else is (laughing). That’s kind of like our own. Obviously we’re not going to compete with Amazon’s turnaround and everything but I do think that locally, especially in the Dartmouth area, people who want to walk down and get a coffee and browse records will want to come down and get a book, or browse our (curated) stock online. The staff picks online is another thing. I do think people look at what’s being recommended to them and Amazon has everything, so it can be a little jarring sometimes to try to find something that fits your interests.”
Q: If I was standing in front of the bookshelves right now, completely unsure, what book are you recommending?
“There’s one in particular called Mumbo Jumbo. It’s by Ishmael Reed. It’s an unconventional novel. It’s a little jumbling but he basically deconstructs the idea of Western Civilization. It was written in the 1970s in New York. It is a story, it’s a story of government corruption essentially but it’s funny and it’s witty. and it reimagines the sense of how a plot would run in a book. It kind of throws you for a loop. It’s about 300 pages long. That one I recommend to everybody. And then there’s the classics. If somebody hasn’t read Crime and Punishment, we carry that. I love that book. The thing is, it’s fun to stand in front of a bookshelf and somebody to say that. That’s the dream, right? (…) Joel really likes a lot of hardboiled crime fiction like Jim Thompson we’re frequently recommending. We have the Sally Rooney books that are awesome. There’s some brand new books too. There’s a book called Yume by Sifton Tracey Anipare. That one’s really great. It just came out in September.”
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