Tina Gateley’s mom had always wanted to be a librarian.
“But marriage and children came along and that never came to be,” laughs Tina.
Despite getting sidetracked from her chosen profession Barbara Gateley managed to pass her love of books along to her family.
“Books were always important for us, “reflects Tina. “Both my parents are avid readers, as am I.”
Originally from Montreal, the Gateley family moved to Perth when Tina’s parents began to look seriously for a place to retire.
“They wanted to get out of the big city and looked at a number places, including Peterborough and Picton, but they fell in love with Perth,” she explains. “There’s something about the town that lures you in, so much so that my parents bought a house here sight-unseen.”
Then in 2001 Tina’s mom bought The Bookworm.
“It was a small, rather messy and dark establishment situated in the lane across from the Chipmunk Chippery,” recalls Tina.
It wasn’t long, however, before Tina’s mom had used her “librarian’s touch” to clean it up and get it organized.
Over the years, the store moved to various locations in downtown Perth.
“We were always at the mercy of the landlords,” recalls Tina. “Rents kept going up or we had to move because they wanted the space for another purpose.”
In 2007 the Gately’s decided to sell their home and buy the building at 76 Foster St. that housed their bookstore. In so doing, they made the apartment above the store their permanent residence.
Growing up Tina had always helped around the store cataloguing and filing books. So it was natural in 2011, with her mom looking to retire, that Tina decided to move back to Perth from the west, where she was working in the theatre industry, to “run the joint,” as she puts it.
“I went from being backstage to being on stage,” Tina says with a smile. “I love it. I meet the most incredible people and we talk about the most interesting topics. When you talk to people who read books, the discussion just seems to be that much more informed.”
It’s a relationship that extends beyond the confines of the bookstore.
“I will see a customer at the grocery store or wherever and they’ll recognize me. They won’t always remember my name, but they’ll recognize me as the ‘book lady.’”
It was shortly after Tina took over the store that the book industry entered a difficult time.
“The internet was taking off and eBooks were becoming big. Many of the larger book stores began to close down,” recalls Tina. “Retail can be tough.”
Despite the challenges, the Bookworm survived.
“There’s something about books,” says Tina. “Many readers who switched to EBooks returned to a paper copy because they missed the look, the feel, the smell of an actual book.”
During the pandemic, books took on an even greater importance.
“Books allow the reader to escape the world around them,” she says. “That’s the thing. They take you to another place, another time. You forget about the world you’re in.”
According to Tina that’s why people are often disappointed in the movie version of a book.
“It’s not the way they had pictured it in their minds,” she says. “The characters aren’t right or something is out of place.”
Tina’s stock is constantly changing with her customers bringing in books for her to sell. Seeing what they bring always gives her a feeling of anticipation.
“Looking through the boxes is like Christmas all over again. Oooh what’s in this box?” she laughs.
Sometimes she simply gets too many boxes.
“That’s when I have to put up my ‘cranky sign’ telling people I’m not accepting any more books at the moment. It’s supply management,” she explains.
With her mom spelling her off occasionally, Tina continues to love what she does and where she does it.
“Perth just makes you feel at home,” Tina explains, as one who knows the feeling first-hand.