Leslie Wallack spent much of her early life in big cities such as Montreal, Ottawa and Kingston. Blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit, it was in Kingston that Leslie opened her first business – a salon.
Eventually, it came time for a change and Leslie began to look at moving to a smaller setting.
“I moved from the city life to Perth in 2000 and never looked back,” she says.
While Perth had a comfortable every-day pace about it, Leslie found it also had just enough happening to keep things interesting through-out the year. As for herself, she wasn’t sure just how she was going to fit in.
“Initially, I wasn’t sure what i was going to do,” she recalls.
An avid reader Leslie had built up a considerable private library with friends and neighbours often borrowing her books. Eventually, one of them suggested she do what she loved and open a bookstore.
The suggestion made a lot of sense and in 2007 Leslie opened the Book Nook in downtown Perth.
“I wasn’t looking to get rich or anything, but i knew I couldn’t make it with books alone, so I started to add complementary items such as art supplies and games and puzzles. That’s how the Book Nook & Other Treasures was born.”
When Covid hit and everyone began to look for things to do at home, Leslie’s inventory met a very public demand.
During the lockdowns when in-store shopping was curtailed, she worked on her website as a means of offering online orders. While the website worked well, Leslie was well aware she couldn’t compete with the likes of Amazon.
It was then that she took to heart the advice of a business adviser who told her: “Don’t compete with Amazon. Focus on your local area.”
So that’s what she did introducing curbside pick-up and local deliveries.
“In the Perth area books and puzzles have always been popular with cottagers looking to have something to do on rainy days,” explains Leslie.
During the pandemic, the sale of books and puzzles increased. At first she found it was the older adults buying them, but soon found they were being bought by all ages including teenagers and young adults “who seemed to rediscover the joy of doing puzzles.”
It was no surprise.
“In difficult times books and puzzles offer folks some degree of normal,” Leslie reflects.
“I’ve always enjoyed the shared bond that exists between readers,” muses Leslie. “There’s a certain dynamic that makes a bookstore a perfect location for conversation. It’s like a gathering of friends with mutual acquaintances.”
While Leslie enjoys discussing her books with her customers, she often finds the conversation quickly moves from one customer to another with each invariably making recommendations for the other.
“I have one regular who reads a lot of non-fiction. If he finds something he likes, he’ll come back in to order additional copies for family and friends. One time he ordered a couple copies of a book and when it came in, he said to me, ‘here I you to want to read this I think you’ll enjoy it’”
“I explained that he didn’t have to order a book for me and we both had a good laugh.”
These days Leslie welcomes a new employee, Mark, to the shop. Mark is also an avid reader and a freelance editor.
While the pandemic has made in-store shopping more difficult, Leslie has worked hard to ensure that it was safe. Hers was one of the first businesses to mandate masks.
“Not everybody was happy with me and a few even left without coming in the store, but for me it’s all about protecting the community. I don’t resent the protocols. The sooner we adhere to them, the sooner we’ll get out of this mess,” she explains.
While her product line has enabled her to weather the damage done by Covid better than many, Leslie is well aware that it’s been more difficult for some of her colleagues.
“We have to look out for each other,” she says.
During the pandemic she has watched as business owners bought from each other and reached out to each other about new ideas and survival strategies.
“It’s been very inspiring to see,” she says. “After all we are in this together.”