You push open the heavy wooden doors and the smell immediately hits you. It’s the smell of ink engraved into paper, of pages pressed against each other, bounded by cloth and leather. A sweet-musky scent draws you into the store, but it’s the source of that smell—books—that keeps you there. 

As you walk further into the store, you turn to the right and that’s when you see her. She’s at the counter, packaging book orders into bags. Strands of caramel brown hair fall over her face as she turns to welcome you in. The corners of her eyes crinkle upward. She smiles and calls you by your name. This is Carmela Vedar, owner of The Book Wardrobe, Mississauga’s only independent bookstore.

For many of us, bookstores are our happy place. Most booklovers probably spend more time (and money) than we should in them. But each book we find offers another adventure to discover, another world to escape to.

Most people purchase their books from larger sellers, such as Amazon and Indigo. While these stores are often more accessible, they aren’t always the most ethical or pleasant. 

Enter independent bookstores. 

“Indie” bookstores are essential to communities. They’re built up by our friends and neighbours. To preserve our sense of solidarity, we must support these small businesses. 

Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been the easiest to find indie bookstores in Mississauga. But as it turns out, the woman with caramel brown hair and smiling eyes does indeed exist. 

Talk with Vedar and you’ll learn she’s always loved travelling and reading. From a young age, she’s been captivated by how books transported her to other countries, time periods, and universes. “Reading has dropped me into different worlds and has exposed me to various cultures, languages, and above all, people.” 

In 2017, Vedar noticed that while most other cities have indie bookstores, Mississauga was lacking. The idea lingered in her mind. While Vedar wasn’t ready to take it on financially, she knew it was a matter of either chasing her passion or wondering “what if.” She ignored her doubts and opened up her own bookstore.

“All it took was a ‘For lease’ sign on the second floor of Robinson-Bray House in Streetsville to get things going,” says Vedar.

And so, The Book Wardrobe was born. It’s a cozy shop nestled in the heart of Streetsville, at 223 Queen St. South. From her shop, Vedar can work on her passion every day. “I believe a bookstore is a magical portal that lets your thoughts soar with the various genres and styles being offered and keeps you open to anything.” 

While Vedar can work with what she loves most, it doesn’t mean the business comes without struggle. The recent booms in technology have led more and more people to shop online. As Vedar says, “With the onset of the digital age, the brick-and-mortar bookstore may soon be a forgotten novelty [of the past].”

Because of the potential uncertainty of independent bookstores, it’s important that we support them as much as possible. Indie bookstores not only promote a sense of harmony in communities but also keep the literary art scene alive and flourishing. Large-chain bookstores may mass-produce and mass-provide to millions, but they shortchange more intimate interactions with customers.

With independent bookstores, you get personalized touches to your purchase and have richer, more authentic human connections between buyer and seller. It’s these smaller, more intimate moments that we must keep alive.  

The easiest way to ensure this is by supporting your local independent bookstores, whether that’s The Book Wardrobe in Mississauga, or other shops in your local town. “If people are purchasing their books from indie bookstores, they are helping the local community thrive. It’s as simple as that,” says Vedar with a smile.Indie bookstores are havens for many people. They heighten the warm and welcoming points of our neighbourhoods, and it’s vital that we keep these connections with us, especially during a time in which many people feel isolated and divided. It’s important to keep walking through those heavy wooden doors, greeting the scents of pressed ink and vanilla, and seeing a familiar face. 

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