Jo Saul and the Impact of TYPE Books in Our Communities

in Apr 4, 2024

TYPE Books' Jo Saul strives to have their three Toronto stores reflect the unique personalities of each community they serve.

Enter a TYPE bookstore, and you feel compelled to slow down, desire to explore, learn, and leave feeling connected to that particular colourful corner of the city. Community is more important than ever in this fast-paced world where technology dominates our lives and virtual connections prevail. Actively fostering a sense of community is a concept that Toronto's TYPE bookstores know well. I wanted to know more about how the three unique TYPE Bookstores came to grace our city and stole a few moments with co-founder and elegant visionary Jo Saul.


E- When you and your co-founder Samara Walbohm opened your doors in 2006, what role did you envision for TYPE books in the community? 

J. We really wanted to make Type a community hub that was deeply rooted in its neighbourhood.

That's the quality that makes indie bookstores so special - that connection to community. We opened at a time when local bookstores had been closing for many years and Amazon and big box stores were on the rise. We wanted an antidote to the anonymity of the big box and online experience.

E - What was your 'aha' moment, or where did you find your inspiration?

J The moment that made us take the leap was when a space on West Queen West became available. It was our dream space - the neighbourhood, the park, the neighbours - all of it.

"We want to best serve the three neighbourhoods that we are rooted in."


E - The changes to retail and societal trends that the last 17 years have seen have been unimaginable due to the rise of social media and online shopping. Add to that a pandemic. How would you say TYPE's role has shifted as a result...or has it?


J. I think our basic core values have remained unchanged. We want to best serve the three neighbourhoods that we are rooted in ( Toronto's Trinity Bellwoods, Junction, and Forest Hill). Having said that, we have had to tweak our model as a response to what's been happening around us. We recognize the value of connecting to our customers on social media. We love growing our community through Instagram, particularly. We strive to share the feeling of being in the stores via social media and on our website. We love that people all over the world can get a feel for what we're building in our brick-and-mortar stores. The pandemic changed everything. We needed to continue to reach our customers while not having them be able to browse in our physical spaces. We did that through our website, through Instagram videos, through personal shopping over the phone and curbside pickup and deliveries. It was a challenge, but our customers stuck with us and we are forever grateful for that.


E - Do you find that the neighbourhoods that Type serves have distinct personalities,

J. Completely!

E. ...How does TYPE caters and responds to those differences?

J. That's what makes an indie bookstore unique. We can't have the same stock in all three stores. We need to respond directly to our customers. We have a similar Type curation in all three, but we customize it depending on the three neighbourhoods we're in. We love having launches and events in our stores. Often those launches are for neighbourhood authors. We host storytimes for kids at Queen and in the Junction. For years we hosted a non-profit love of reading series in our basement at Queen. We love getting to know our customers at each location and making sure they can find exactly what they need at each store.


E - What is the most gratifying aspect of running TYPE books?

J. Building community. Being involved in communities. Forging relationships with customers and publishers and authors and our colleagues that help run Type. Those relationships are the lifeblood of the business.


Type Books Junction

E- and most significant challenges...


J. Small business is not for the faint of heart. Everyday can pose a challenge. You have to be ready to adapt and "pivot" at any moment!

Q - What are you reading right now? Second part... good summer read suggestions?


J. I'm currently reading Sheila Heti's Pure Colour. She's been such a wonderful supporter of our store since we opened and her books always blow me away. There are so many good books for summer! I tend to read slower, more atmospheric reads. Anything by Elizabeth Strout or Maggie O'Farrell, or Miriam Toews is a must-read, in my opinion.

Q - Of course, with you being a vocal early adopter of VOOMcart, what do you like about VOOMing?


J. I love so many things about VOOMing. I love how it connects me to my neighbourhood. I love how it allows me to "walk my shop" and leave my car at home. It gets me outside, and it gets me moving. I think it is the most brilliant invention. I especially love how anyone can use it. Up until she died, my mom VOOMed everywhere. It allowed her to keep exploring our Annex neighbourhood and maintain her independence even when she couldn't keep driving. She would set out with her VOOMcart with such joy and determination. I think about that a lot when I'm using mine. My kids use it too. Neither of them has a driver's license so it allows them to participate in household tasks. It's a multigenerational gift that keeps on giving. It's also such a social tool! I can't walk my shop without someone stopping me to ask about the VOOMcart, and we inevitably start up a conversation. It's a great connector!

Thanks Jo - from me and SO many fans.


This month, Type Bookstore in the Junction is celebrating the power of community with a giveaway, including a VOOMcart and two superb books by local authors that inspire urban exploration and eating local fresh produce - Hello Farmer's Markets!
City of Neighbors - Andrea Curtis
Neighbourhoods where people look out for each other, eat together, make art and build community are healthier, happier, greener and cleaner. Journey around the world to discover how people have been dreaming up new ways to ensure their cities and neighbourhoods are creative, inclusive and environmentally sustainable
Peak Season Deirdre Buryk
In Peak Season, Deirdre Buryk explores this simple idea and showcases how to make the most of seasonal Ontario produce when it’s freshest! Celebrates Ontario’s seasonal bounty as she guides you through each month of the year.

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