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For sale: 35,000 books and a grey-haired ghost

'In the 12 years I’ve owned the store, I’ve never once had time to sit and read,' quips owner of popular Barrie bookstore

Rivendell Books owner Wendy Cahill can’t guarantee you’ll get the ghost if you purchase her Wellington Plaza shop.

But you’ll get a whack of books and plenty of interesting customers, not to mention lots and lots of stories, both verbal and on good old-fashioned paper.

Cahill is turning a page in her life, finally retiring and moving on after 12 years of buying and selling books.

And sharing the space with what not a few people have called a ghost.

“The ghost is definitely staying with the store,” Cahill tells BarrieToday.

“He’s attached to the books, not to me,” she says, adding he hasn’t been too active lately. “He hasn’t revealed his feelings about me leaving as yet.”

Cahill says she’s had many customers who claim they have psychic abilities saying they have seen or sensed the ghost. 

“Our first encounter with the ghost was when my husband and I would find neatly stacked Second World War books on the floor when we came into the store in the morning after having given the store a thorough cleaning the night before,” she says. “We had no explanation for this as no one else had keys to the place.

“Everyone describes him in the same way. He’s an older, grey-haired man dressed in old-fashioned clothes.”

Ghost or not, there are good-spirited vibes at Rivendell Books.

“My fondest memories involve the wonderful friends I have made at the store,” Cahill says, “but some stand out more than others.

“Mose Stephenson was a busker who played outside the store for years. He was a talented wordsmith who would come in to recite his poetry to me. I loved his music and treasure the CDs he put out.”

There was jocularity aplenty around the cash register as regulars brought books in to sell or perused the aisles for a purchase, she adds.

“Many of my customers were very funny,” the soon-to-be-retired shop owner says. “I always thought we should have a reality show at the store.

“One young man asked me to special order a book for him about how to exercise a penis. The front cover of the book featured a large banana.”

While she is happy to fill those special niche orders, Cahill says the books on her shelves are what she wants to see there.

“We carry almost all types of books. That’s the pleasure of owning your own business,” she says. “I can carry or not carry whatever I want. I’m against hunting, so I don’t carry books on hunting. I don’t like computers, so there’s no computer books.”

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on many parts of the economy, taken a toll on family and work life, changing how people entertain themselves, or reinvent how they entertain themselves.

“We are one of the fortunate businesses who have done well during COVID,” Cahill says. “People have had some spare time and have decided to start reading more.

“Not just elderly people but people of all ages. Reading from an electronic device is just not the same experience as reading from a book. It can’t be duplicated. Books don’t need batteries or recharging.”

So just how how often does someone who owns 35,000 books get a chance to read one on the job?

“In movies, bookstore owners are always depicted sitting down reading. In the 12 years I’ve owned the store, I’ve never once had time to sit and read.”



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Ian McInroy

About the Author: Ian McInroy

Ian McInroy is an award-winning photographer and journalist with more than 30 years in the industry
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