SACKVILLE, N.B. – When you open the door at Tidewater Books & Browsery, you have to stop for a minute to take in all the products that delight the eye. It is a very bright and inviting space with colourful, well-arranged items – so much so that you don’t know where to take a closer look first. You could spend hours browsing a wide selection of books and items from local artisans, even settling down in the new reading nook at the back.
Coming from Bath, New Brunswick to go to Mountt Allison, Ellen Pickle worked through her university years with the aim of completing a B.Ed. After working for a year after graduation, she accepted a management position at Pizza Delight, then opened Ducky’s. She subsequently married Ron Aiken, a professor at Mount Allison. Having grown up in a working family business in a small community, Ellen made the decision to start a business of her own two years later. “I have always been a voracious reader. With the university population and an educated community, it seemed Sackville was missing a bookstore,” says Ellen.
Now in its 23rd year, Tidewater’s products have naturally evolved over the years. Greeting cards are still available and offer a more personal touch since they come from small independent companies. Uniqueness is important to Ellen; she looks for products which complement the books she offers. Tidewater stocks calendars, agendas and journals as well as other products one might look for in a small bookstore.
Tidewater offers a wide range and good-sized selection of children’s books for all ages. Melissa and Doug toys, Folkmanis puppets and wooden toys from the Toymaker of Lunenburg round out choices for the young ones.
Book ordering is all done by Tidewater staff. Decisions on what books to carry are largely based on having a good amount of Canadian content and knowing the local customer base. Ellen says, “Our aim is to provide book selections that our customers enjoy and that are more unique than those found in large chain bookstores that receive inventory from provided lists.”
Tidewater often special orders books for customers.
“We will special order, free of charge, any book currently in print. Should a customer request a book that is out of print, we will do our best to research it and see if we can get it,” says Ellen. Special orders account for approximately 15 per cent of books sold in the store.
Feeling that it is important to try new things and take chances, in 2004 Ellen opened a Tidewater Books store at the Moncton airport. Since the airport is more of a destination than one in which travelers remain for a period of time awaiting a connecting flight, in 2008 she made the decision to close that store. At the same time, Ellen made a connection with the Northrop Frye Literary Festival in Moncton, and has been the festival’s official bookseller for 15 years.
In the fall of 2010, Ellen was approached by the owners of The Crofter to share a space and subsequently moved across the street from the present Ducky’s space to the storefront she now owns. In 2017, The Crofter closed and Ellen decided to expand her product offerings beyond books.
Ellen participates in approximately 30-40 book events during the year in which Tidewater partners with many local groups and organizations. This is in addition to the annual Frye Festival, which takes place over 10 days. With the new cozy reading nook at the back of the store, Tidewater is now able to host smaller events in-store – four have already been held. New Brunswick boasts only two English independent bookstores and Nova Scotia also has a minimal number. Ellen hosts book events in Nova Scotia when possible, often setting up these events with local partners. This becomes a win-win for both partners.
On Wednesday, Oct. 18, Tidewater Books & Browsery will host its grand re-opening and re-branding event from 6-8 p.m., with store-wide specials. New products now available in the store have been carefully chosen and made by artisans throughout Atlantic Canada. The store features three pottery companies, three soap companies (one of which is potato-based) and two candle companies. Fun literary products – t-shirts, socks, mugs, bags, etc. – are offered. You will find jewellery from locals Jennifer Hunter and Sandy Harper, sea glass jewellery from an Albert County artisan and lip balms made especially for children. There are numerous other product lines available, including children’s toys and clothing, scarves and lap blankets. Products in the store reflect Ellen’s strong belief in promoting and supporting local. The different products featured are those which you will not see everywhere and are in keeping with showcasing local artisans. Local authors are always displayed at the front of the store.
“It is important to be seen supporting and participating in your community,” says Ellen.
To that end, she has served in many capacities over the years. Currently the President of Mainstreet Redevelopment Sackville Inc., she has been President of the Greater Sackville Chamber of Commerce, on the Executive of both Enterprise South East and the Community Business Development Corporation, on the Board of the Sackville Public Library and Renaissance Sackville and on the Board of both the Atlantic and the Canadian Booksellers’ Associations.
Ellen says, “My aim is to put great books in the hands of readers. I am happy with how the store looks. I love being in an old building with the creaky floors that add to its character. I like watching the excitement of young children when they look at the toys or open the books.”
She adds, “The beauty of an independent bookstore is that it is more local, more curated and we who work here know our community. We can bring in books our customers want and support local authors, often taking their books on consignment.”
Are there challenges?
Ellen says, “From the day we opened the door the sky has been falling. Things like books on tape, e-books, chain stores and so on are all working to shut down independent bookstores. But people are also very tactile. They love to see, feel and smell new books in their hands.” That is clearly evident when you notice customers browsing the store. The combination of books, their complementary items and all the other eye-catching items appeal to your senses. It is obvious that the ladies who work at Tidewater enjoy what they do and that customers enjoy the atmosphere in the store.
Hours of operation for Tidewater Books & Browsery: Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday Noon-5 p.m. The store is located at 13 Bridge Street in Sackville. You can reach them by phone at 506-536-0404, email email@example.com, check them out on Facebook or visit their website.