In December 1972, Bookmark Charlottetown opened its doors at 146 Richmond Street. Today, the location is home to Receiver Coffee, but 50 years ago it was the smell of new books rather than coffee that perfumed the air.
Bookmark was the vision of Rodney Jones, who recognized the need for an independent bookshop in Charlottetown. It was an auspicious year to open a bookshop, as contemporary Canadian literature and authors became more well-known. In 1972, Margaret Atwood published her novel Surfacing and Robertson Davies won the Governor General’s Award with his novel The Manticore.
Larry Jones, Rodney’s brother and one of the original co-owners of Bookmark, helped set up the store.
“I remember building the shelves down at the original bookshop with wood we harvested ourselves. He didn’t have many books to start with, so it was a process. A lot of family members were involved at various stages, from the construction of the store to the first staff members,” shares Larry. “Rodney also developed quite a rapport with his customers. The special-order business was big. People would come in with requests for unique books and he would find them,” he adds.
When the shop opened on Richmond Street, Pat Jones, Rodney’s sister-in-law, friend and first employee of Bookmark, remembers, “I used to open the door in the morning and say, ‘good morning, I love you!’ to the store. We were a family. You didn’t go to work; you were going to have fun with your friends.”
During Bookmark Charlottetown’s 50-year history, the shop moved from its location on Richmond Street to the Confederation Court Mall. There was also a store in the Waterfront Mall in Summerside for a few years and in more recent times, a kiosk at the Charlottetown Seaport.
In 1989, Rodney opened a second location in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Spring Garden Road. The store has become a literary hub and is still in its original location across from the gates to the Public Gardens.
Rodney’s daughter, Tarra Drevet, grew up with Bookmark and recalls how important the business was to her dad: “Running a business gave him freedom. Freedom of thought, freedom to use his time as he wished. He worked very hard, but he loved being a business owner.”
Throughout it all, Bookmark Charlottetown has remained a constant fixture. Manager Lori Cheverie, who has been with Bookmark since 1990, shares, “One of my favourite memories is seeing the excitement during the midnight release parties for the Harry Potter books. All the kids who couldn’t wait for us to uncover those piles of books, many with flashlights so they could read during the car ride home.”
Rodney passed away unexpectedly in 2013. In 2014, Dan and Marlene MacDonald purchased Bookmark and brought both locations into a new chapter of bookselling.
“As owners, we see ourselves as stewards of Bookmark as an institution in Charlottetown and of the legacy that Rodney built,” share Dan and Marlene. “We give Rodney and his staff credit for guiding Bookmark successfully through some challenging years in the book business and establishing what is now one of Canada’s oldest independent bookshops.”
Bookmark owes much of its longevity to its customers, the people who remember browsing the shelves as children and now bring their family and friends to the shop. Bookshops are more than just a place to buy books, they are comforting spaces where everyone is welcome, and Bookmark is no exception. As the shop turns to the next page of its adventure, the story of Bookmark will continue.
—Submitted by Olivia Robinson