New owners revive beloved community bookstore

Books on Beechwood is here to stay, thanks to new owners Brian Sullivan, Peter Dawson and George Laframboise. The three are relying on the support of the neighbourhood to keep the bookstore open for community interaction.

They appeared to be Beechwood Avenue’s very own knights in shining armour. When high tech businessman Brian Sullivan partnered with colleagues Peter Dawson and George Laframboise to take over Books on Beechwood, there was an overwhelming sense in the New Edinburgh neighbourhood that they were saving much more than one bookstore.

Nearly every retailer in the area had been keeping a close eye on Books on Beechwood since its founder and owner, Jean Barton, announced the store was closing at the end of 2012.

“I really hit a nerve because if I close, it’s going to have a ripple effect on other businesses,” says Barton.


After a fire destroyed a retail complex just east of Crichton Street in 2011, foot traffic fell dramatically. The remaining businesses, which rely heavily on walk-in customers, were feeling the pinch.

“All the retailers around here are really struggling, and one less business means a lot less foot traffic,” says Barton.

So when the trio of businessmen stepped forward to take over, the neighbourhood breathed a collective sigh of relief. Julie Smyth, who has been bringing her son to the store for nearly seven years, says she was “very happy” that Books on Beechwood was here to stay.

“You don’t often hear that, right? It’s good news,” she says.


Those who expect a sudden recovery of business in the area however, may be disappointed. When Sullivan approached Barton to propose a buyout, reviving Beechwood Avenue’s struggling economy was never part of the plan. But as a regular customer of the bookstore for 12 years, he says he felt compelled to act.

“If it was any other business, I probably wouldn’t have done anything,” says Sullivan, “but I like books a lot and I wanted to really keep the bookstore in the neighbourhood going.”

How to keep the store going, however, was unclear. Sullivan, Dawson and Laframboise work together at Iridian Spectral Technologies, an Ottawa-based company that a makes optical filters for satellites and 3-D cinema. Operating a bookshop, however, is uncharted territory.

“We understand high-tech business,” says Dawson matter-of-factly, “We didn’t claim to have any knowledge of the bookstore business.”

Their plan, he says, is to build on the strengths that have kept the store going since 1994. Books on Beechwood is a popular meeting place, where even four-legged friends are welcomed with dog treats behind the counter.

The bookstore hosts several events from book signings and launches for local authors to story times for children. It’s this reputation as a hub of community interaction that Sullivan intends to promote.

He plans to increase advertising and organize more special events to draw people into Books on Beechwood. The ultimate goal, Sullivan says, is to “just let people know, as a reminder, that we’re around.”


Ironically, the greatest reminder of Books on Beechwood’s existence was its near closure last year.

“The neighbourhood was up in arms,” says Barton, who had grown weary of the steady drop in sales. Some even asked if she would consider forming a co-operation – anything to prevent the store from closing down.

The outpour of support from the community was enough to convince the new owners that the bookstore is a viable business as a beloved part of the neighbourhood. Sullivan says many

people have already told him they would do their part to keep Books on Beechwood in business by buying all their books there.

It won’t be easy. Dawson acknowledged that big box stores and online competition will always be a challenge. Nonetheless, the new owners remain optimistic.

“It’ll have to be a conscious decision on their part to help support the community,” says Sullivan, “but I think that’ll definitely happen.”