Sellers & Newel: Toronto’s Unique Used Bookstore

Peter Sellers grew up in Leaside and has lived in Toronto all his life. He went to the University of Toronto School and then York University’s Glendon College where he studied English. He worked in advertising, for an agency and then freelance. In November 2011, he opened his bookstore. Having a bookstore, even a small 650 square foot outlet, was the change he had craved.

Ever since high school, he has collected books, all kinds of books, which reflect his personal passions over time: modern literature, crime fiction, biography, military history, otherworldly books, poetry, plays. His own collection of books made up his first shop inventory. Now he does special orders for customers, and buys other books which fill out his collections.

Apart from the content, he likes books as objects, likes to be surrounded by books, and to talk about books and authors with his customers. Twice a year, he travels to London to buy the fine books and older editions that he really likes to sell. He prides himself on selling different books which people may not find anywhere else. To “cull his herd,” he sells discounted books on the street, a loss leader which makes his customers happy.

Peter promotes Sellers & Newel on the internet: “By day, Toronto’s smallest bookstore. By night, a unique and intimate live music venue.” Last year, jazz trumpet player Tim Hamel suggested to Peter that his tiny space would give fine resonance for playing music. Peter seized on the idea and began his S & N Speakeasy. From September to May, Peter opens his bookstore twice a month, usually Thursday nights, for musical performances by local singers and songwriters, and for poetry readings. The bookcases in the middle of his store move to the side, and 35 or so young people (and the occasional older person like me) gather for an intimate evening of music, poetry and camaraderie.

In May, I attended the Speakeasy for a concert given by singer-songwriter Jack Connolly, playing his guitar with fellow guitarist Ian Koiter joining in on the harmony. A delightful, low-key evening, the singing went on and on, each song drawing an even more enthusiastic response. Have the ’60s returned? It certainly feels like it. The next show will be Andrew Mah on Thursday, September 29th at 672 College Street. See the upcoming schedule on the shop’s website.

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