Canada’s Oldest Children’s Bookstore Defies the Odds
Woozles Celebrates Its 30th Birthday
Thirty years ago, the day was overcast, the balloons were ready, and the 250 homemade cookies were still warm. The question was “Would people come to the opening of the only children’s bookstore east of Ottawa?” The answer on October 14, 1978, was a resounding “Yes”! Woozles, – A Place for and About Children – had 600 customers on its first day and has never looked back.
Woozles recently celebrated its 30th birthday on Sunday, October 19, from 2:00-4:30 PM with a big party. Woozles’ famous free fish pond was available all afternoon, with the line snaking outside, as was Rosie Vaughn, who has been face-painting at Woozles’ birthday parties since 1983. Four different children’s performers entertained hundreds of children and families every half-hour:
Michael Hirschbach (aka “Circus Mike” from Cirque du Soleil)
Sherry Lee Hunter and her hilarious bear Ed
The Fabulous Wilderbeats
Some of the greatest fun was had with the five games set up: the Honey Pot Toss, Piglet Bowling, Pin the Tail on Eeyore, Pooh-Sticks, and the Tigger Bounce. Woozles’ party also had visits from Mermaid Theatre’s giant Dinosaurs, Clifford (the big red dog), and Paddington Bear.
Woozles is now Canada’s oldest children’s bookstore. Some people say it has defied the odds in the face of big box stores with their deep discounts and the increasing prevalence of the internet and technology in children’s lives.
Liz Crocker, one of the founding owners reflects on Woozles’ success: “I think Woozles is much more than a store. It is, as the words below the logo suggest, ‘a place for and about children’.
People know that when they come to Woozles they will be walking into a place that supports children and families in every way – not only with the best of children’s literature and exceptional imaginative and educational toys – but also with staff who truly understand and love children and know about what’s on the shelves as well as what’s going on for children in the community. Children can crawl around the floor and no one will tell them they can’t. Parents can cuddle up with their little ones in our big, comfy chair and read. It’s a special little world unto itself.”
A lot has changed over the thirty years. Brian Crocker, the second founding owner says: “When we opened we wrote receipts by hand and used a cash drawer. In fact we didn’t get a cash register until December 1987 and then we graduated to a computer in 1995. And our first newsletter was written by hand and copied on an old gestetner machine…now our newsletters are formatted and available on our web-site.”
Over its 30 years, Woozles has offered a wide variety of workshops for children, teachers and parents. Topics ranged from “Photography for Kids”, “Young Children as Writers”, and “Cat’s Cradle and String Games” to “Activities for Toddlers”, “How to Get Outdoors with Kids and Enjoy It”, and “Green Households” (given before its time in 1990!). In total, Woozles offered over 1000 workshops. One workshop, titled “Music and Movement for Preschoolers” was run more than 100 times, hosted by Woozles Manager of thirty years, Trudy Carey.
One of Woozles signature programs is called “Battle of the Books”. This program, launched this program in 1986, encourages teams of students to match their wits about books they have read from a set list. Over 200 children are involved in this program each year and come from as far away as Truro and Bridgewater.
As another way of supporting eager readers, Woozles’ Lisa Doucet hosts three book clubs for elementary, junior high, and senior high students at the store. Children involved with both the book clubs and Battle of the Books say that they read far beyond their own natural choices in books and read books from other genres.
Woozles is a strong supporter of children’s initiatives in the community. For example, Woozles has been a strong supporter of CBC’s “Young Canada Reads” program, the Read to Me Program at the IWK, and the Children’s Literature Roundtable. Woozles provided early meeting space for the Children’s Writers Workshop and the Junior League’s Buckle Up Baby Program and its children’s magazine Ahoy. Woozles also helped champion the Discovery Centre in its early days.
Thirty years ago, on opening day, people were asked “What’s a Woozles?”
The answers included the following:
“How you feel when you’ve read too much.”
“The female ones are pink but the males tend to lavender and when they’re happy, they’re curvy, but when they’re unhappy, they scrunch.”
“They are blue and small and furry.”
Pooh and Piglet are still looking for Woozles and so this kind of imaginative magic continues to exist…but now people know that “Woozles” also means a great place for and about children at 1533 Birmingham Street – Canada’s Oldest Children’s Bookstore.
For more information please visit our website at www.woozles.com.