When the retail space beside the Cannon Coffee Co. on Ottawa Street North became vacant, east-end residents Janet Hoy and Tim Hanna knew they had to act quickly. For a while, they had been pondering the idea of a bookstore to serve the Crown Point neighbourhood, and the location was just too good to pass up.
Fast forward a few months later, their shop, The City & The City Books, is open, and their bright space, featuring a well-curated collection of new and used books, is a welcomed addition to the community.
“We knew Ottawa Street was where it was needed,” says Hanna, who hopes the store will be “accessible” to everyone, with books that cater to many interests. The shop’s shelves are filled with novels, non-fiction, science fiction, reference books, books by local authors, a growing children’s book section, and well-stocked music section.
“What interests us the most are genre-defying books: Books that don’t have a section,” says Hanna. “We’re named after a book by China Miéville, and he’s a kind of person whose books could be in three different sections. They could be in science fiction. They could be in literature.”
The City & the City, a novel by British author Miéville,” was the store’s first book club pick. The book club will take place at the nearby Hearty Hooligan every two months. Their most recent pick is My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a novel by Ottessa Moshfegh.
Hoy and Hanna agree that curating the selection at The City & The City is an ongoing process, especially as they see what the neighbourhood is looking for when browsing the shelves.
“To me, it’s important to have affordable books for all. Not everyone can afford the hot new release,” says Hoy, who opened the shop to mark her 50th birthday. When it comes to the store’s non-fiction section, it’s “more toward the left-side of the dial,” says Hanna. “I don’t think you’re going to see Jordan Peterson in here!”
As The City & The City Books grows, Hoy and Hanna hope to host some small, intimate readings in the space.
“I think one of our first events will be getting the writers from in the neighbourhood to come and do a reading,” says Hoy as she talks about Hamilton’s vibrant literary scene and her goal of creating a gathering space for the Ottawa Street community.
“In a lot of shops if you have bad weather, you panic,” says Hanna. “But in a weird way, bad weather means people aren’t going downtown; they’re not going out. They’re hanging out in the neighbourhood.”
That “neighbourhood feeling” is something that both Hanna and Hoy are excited to continue cultivating.
“The neighbourhood has been great to us. So many people come in and say, ‘We’re so happy you’re here. We’ve needed [a bookstore] forever’,” says Hoy.
The City The City Books
181 Ottawa Street North