One more reason to visit Winnipeg… Saskatoon, Calgary & New York

no_thumb.gifIn my last post I neglected to mention one of the best book-related reasons to visit Winnipeg… That’s because McNally Robinson Booksellers deserves a post of its own. As reported in Manitoba Calling Magazine in 2003, Holly McNally has been running bookstores in Winnipeg since 1981 when she opened a corner bookstore with business partner Rob Robinson. He later left the business to pursue a career in radio.You may remember McNally Robinson in the strip mall near Grapes on Grant and Kenaston, and, later a second store in Osborne Village. About 10 years ago, with other independent bookstores in Canada succumbing to the arrival of big box stores, Holly and her husband Paul McNally decided to close the two McNally Robinson locations and build their own super store –  the 21,000 square foot space at Grant Park Shopping Centre.

Today, McNally Robinson Booksellers Grant Park draws readers from across the city, province and beyond. A second store, McNally Robinson at Portage Place, is conveniently located downtown. With the success of the Winnipeg stores, McNally’s expanded to Saskatoon, Calgary, and, most recently, to New York. A recent article in Macleans Magazine,“The Little Indie that Could: how did a couple from the Peg end up with the best bookstore in NYC?”, details the success of the New York store opened by the McNally’s oldest daughter Sarah in 2004. (See some visitor reviews here) . The article reveals that another McNally’s location, operated by daughter Tory, will open in Toronto next year.  A third store is also planned for Winnipeg.   

The new Winnipeg store will have to work very hard to top my favourite – the Grant Park location. Despite its size and expansive airiness, the store still has the cozy feel of arriving at a good friend’s to check out their latest book collection. And, if you have time to linger after choosing your books, the Prairie Ink Restaurant (also good at the Portage Ave location), is nestled at the back of the store behind racks filled with magazines, newspapers and cook books. The eatery allows diners to enjoy gourmet food, coffee, gelatis, and desserts, often, accompanied by jazz trios or poets reading from their latest collection.  

The best part of the store – – an attraction I always recommend to visitors to the city who have kids – – is the kids section on the loft-like second level. Accessed by an awe-inspiring spiral staircase that winds around a tree, it is here that you will find staff totally dedicated to helping you find the best books for kids, tweens and teens, as well as cool toys, puzzles and games. They are also experts at organizing and hosting fun reading-related events for kids. It’s how every library for kids should be run. And, on the well-organized shelves are countless Manitoba and Canadian titles, many of which my predecessors and I have added to our library. When the sad day comes that the selections are little too junior for a teen reader, a PG-15 section downstairs (where I shop for my older readers) will help him or her ease into more adult reading. 

In addition to the atmosphere and service, and, of course, all the great books, what makes McNally’s great is its relationship with writers and readers. On any given day or evening there is something entertaining happening at one or all of their stores ranging from special activities for kids, to book launches to promote local, national and international authors.  

When the popularity of a prospective book launch threatens to even overfill the massive space afforded by their Grant location, the McNally’s and their staff pull out all the stops, organizing such events as this summer’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows party at Assiniboine Park. On October 15, McNally’s will take over the Manitoba Theatre for Young People at the Forks to host a slide show and reading, by author Kenneth Oppel himself, to launch Darkwing, the prequel to the world-famous Silverwing series of books. The day before, Oppel will visit the Saskatoon McNally’s location.

More evidence of the family’s support for reading and writing in Manitoba is that McNally’s partners with the Manitoba Writers’ Guild to include Reader Reward discount cards with guild memberships as well as access to space within the store for guild events. Similar activities and promotions happen at the other store locations as well. The McNally’s annually sponsor book awards for best adult book, best children’s book and best agoriginal book. Teachers and Librarians receive a generous discount when purchasing books for schools. 

It all adds up to a local bookstore making it big while still providing the friendly, little-bookstore-down-the-street-style of service that made McNally’s Booksellers a great place to buy books over 25 years ago. So, that’s one more good reason to visit Winnipeg. And, for me, as I conveniently have a cousin living in the Big Apple, one more good reason to visit New York.


2 Thoughts on “One more reason to visit Winnipeg… Saskatoon, Calgary & New York

  1. McNally’s is my favourite bookstores. They have just the right atmosphere and selection. I also like that they always have plenty of people ready to help you (even though there are many people in there shopping all the time, there is never a long wait at the register, or to get help).

    Although buying online might be cheaper and quicker, nothing beats going to McNally’s every few weeks.

  2. I agree! You can shop online from McNally’s too at:

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