By Greg Bobinec on December 11, 2020.
Starting a new business during a pandemic may not seem like the best investment, but for one southern Alberta family it was an adventure of a lifetime to a successful launch.
At the start of 2020 Scott Warris, his wife Penny, their daughter Willow and their family cat Hugo were on their way to start their dream of opening Analog Books Inc., leaving their life behind in the Crowsnest Pass to start from scratch in Lethbridge.
“The plan goes back about four years. We lived in the Crowsnest Pass and we were quite involved with the community there, I was a part of getting the Boys and Girls Club in the Pass and my wife was on the library board,” says Scott Warris. “About four years ago, we were spending more time in Lethbridge because we really liked Lethbridge, and with our daughter starting high school, we wanted her to start here and that is when we decided to open a bookstore in downtown.”
Their dream of creating a warm and inviting bookstore came from their international travels where they would visit the different bookstores abroad. Seeing a need for an inviting community space after thousands of local bookstores closed in the early 2000s, the Warris family wanted to reunite the community of Lethbridge with a welcoming and community-centred bookstore.
“We have always loved bookstores and travelling, and we went into bookstores all around the world to see the different types and we liked the idea of a warm, comfortable, safe space which a lot of bookstores provide in their community and we thought that it would be nice to have in Lethbridge,” says Warris. “We were looking at locations in Lethbridge and we knew that we wanted to be downtown and we narrowed it down to 6 Street, Festival Street, it had a real community vibe to it.”
Although the pandemic provided challenges for their opening of Analog Books, it also gave them the time to create the proper feel and ambiance for the space, as well as the best way to work around the restrictions.
“We got the place officially in March and that is when everything with the pandemic started to happen, and we had already put so much planning into it, so it made it quite emotional on deciding what to do,” says Warris. “We put it off for about six weeks and in the middle of April we decided to start it all back up again.
“We ended up spending the whole summer renovating the building, and that was maybe an advantage that came out of the pandemic. It gave us more time to focus on the details. We had originally hoped to open in September, but it was delayed and finally we came ready to go and got the details on how to operate with the new restrictions a few weeks ago. We went ahead and opened for the first time about a week ago.”
Within the first week of opening, the community rallied behind them to show support for the new local business, and the Warris family is very grateful for the encouragement.
“The response has been phenomenal, we are blown away and a little exhausted. We ended up hiring extra staff almost immediately to help us out, along with our daughter helping us out,” says Warris. “But the support and encouragement from the community has been great and we feel good that we were right, that there was a demand for a space like this in Lethbridge.”
Moving forward, Analog Books is looking forward to expanding its library, taking in recommendations for what the community would like to see in content. The bookstore will also be utilizing the space for live events such as author readings and other book-related events for when the community restrictions are lifted.
“We have a lot of other plans going forward. The original plan was to have a lot more additional bookcases down the centre that we left open for more social distancing, but right now we have just over half of our capacity of books, but our expectation was around 8,000 books and right now we have about 4,500,” says Warris. “In time, we are going to be curating our selection to the community through their feedback and what they would like to see. We have already had some people send in their selections that they would like to see, especially in areas like our Indigenous section. We have a lot of room for growth and we are open to suggestions.”
Although opening Analog Books during a pandemic wasn’t in the pages of the Warris family plan, it did allow them the time to perfectly curate the space into the community-oriented, welcoming bookstore they had always dreamed of. Analog Books is located at 332 6 St. S.
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