When it comes to the quintessential local bookstore here in Edmonton, the first name that springs to mind is Audreys. Although it was technically incorporated in the ’70s, the bookstore traces its roots back to local author Mel Hurtig, who opened his first bookstore in 1956. From the very beginning, Audreys has been an important fixture in the community literary scene. A hub of sorts, Audreys works to connect local and Canadian authors and booklovers in this city.
Conveniently, Audreys is located right next to The Commodore, one of my favourite little diners on Jasper Avenue and 107 Street, so I’ll often take my son and make a milkshake-and-bookstore date out of it. (Highly recommended.) Audreys’ front window frequently houses whimsical displays of toys and books, a testament to the fact that they also carry a fantastic selection of games, toys, art supplies and children’s books. As soon as we get in the front door, my little boy bounds down the stairs to the kids’ section, where he can easily find a plethora of items to add to his birthday or Christmas lists, or to pick up as a birthday gift for a friend. The staff there is always very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about many different genres of books — it’s obvious to me that they love to read. Recently, when I went in to grab my copy of local author Todd Babiak’s Come Barbarians, the lady at the order desk handed me the book with a knowing smile. “Great choice,” she said. “You’re in for a good weekend.” She was right. I couldn’t put it down.
In terms of selection, Audreys carries a wide array of fiction and non-fiction in every genre your heart desires. If they don’t have it, they could probably help you order it. You can even order online from their website. But the place is about so much more than just carrying a great selection of books. The owners and staff at Audreys have a heart and soul committed to the local community. One of the first things you’ll see when you enter the shop is a section dedicated to Edmonton writers. If you follow their Twitter or Facebook accounts, you’ll find countless references in support of local artists, literary events, conferences and the like. They also host many readings and book launches in the bottom floor of their shop, which can be conveniently re-configured to seat 65–75 people.
Audreys also carries a great selection of greeting cards, calendars, journals, bookmarks and other such delights. I’m always tempted by the chocolates at the front counter, too. It’s a perfect spot to stop in to buy a gift or to treat yourself. When you’re thinking about places to spend your book-buying dollars, consider supporting this independent local shop — once you start, you’ll be glad you did.