Anne-Marie Bailey on the porch of the Black Cat Books, with the Black Cat created by Aislin for the bookstore.
“Do you belong to the famous Bailey family of Brookbury?” I asked the poised young woman. She’s Anne-Marie Bailey, and as of October 1st, the new owner of Black Cat Books in Lennoxville.
“Yes, Austin and Brenda are my parents,” she said with a smile.
“And you live in Bishopton? So why buy a business in Lennoxville?”
“I suppose because I’m Anglophone, and that’s where the English-speaking jobs are. I went to Galt [Regional High School], and I’ve been coming to Lennoxville almost every day of my adult life.”
But the real attraction is this: Bailey loves books. “Black Cat Books is the only primarily English bookstore in the region, so that’s where I do a lot of my shopping for books.”
She has known for a long time she wanted to be an entrepreneur, she said. After attending college in New Brunswick for four years, she took secretarial and accounting classes at Lennoxville Vocational Centre and worked as a secretary for a few years. Then she trained as a pastry chef at the Centre 24-juin and got a job in a pastry shop.
“It only lasted two weeks because everything shut down. The shop ended up closing because of Covid.”
She found another job as secretary-receptionist at Community Aid in Lennoxville, right across the parking lot from the Black Cat at 168E Queen Street. So she was one of the first to know when the Black Cat owner Janice LaDuke of Johnville announced that, after 24 years, she would be retiring on September 1st. Still, Bailey hesitated.
As September approached, many Black Cat customers worried. People from as far away as Quebec City and Lac-Mégantic would phone in orders, or come with a long list of books to buy, LaDuke said. For connoisseurs of independent bookstores, the Black Cat has a broad reach.
And a large inventory.“About 15,000 used titles,” said Bailey, “plus all the new books. They cover just about every topic you can think of.”
Responding to concerns, Christian Collins of the Lennoxville Library organized an open meeting of interested citizens and groups to explore ways to rescue the Black Cat. Finally, just two days before the meeting, Bailey stepped forward and closed the sale.
“Everything’s been much more public than I would like,” she said. “But we’ve seen the bookstore is important to a lot of people. The community came together to try to save it, and that’s really encouraging. I think it is important to a lot of Anglophone people, but it is important to a lot of Francophone people as well.”
Bailey admits she’s a bit introverted, but she is not alone. “Readers and introverts, I think they fit together,” she laughed.
Extroverts may have turned to books, too, during the pandemic. Unlike pastry shops, the Black Cat has thrived.
“There seems to be a pretty steady flow of customers,” Bailey said. “I hope to see lots of familiar faces.”
She invites virtual customers to visit Black Cat Books on Facebook, or at the website artsunaean.ca/Black Cat/.