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The little bookstore that did

Amanda Vaughan
Northern News Services
Published Friday, April 04, 2008

YELLOWKNIFE - For nearly two years, Old Town has been graced by a cozy place to take in printed stories, new or old, spoken tales, subdued or lively, or a song that takes you near or far. As of this morning, its days are numbered to precisely two.

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Daron Letts of Squatterz Book and Curiosities spends some quality time with marionettes Myshkin, left and Stavrogin, right, before he shuts down the store for good this weekend. - Amanda Vaughan/NNSL photo

On any other Tuesday afternoon, Squatterz Books and Curiosities is typically closed. Last Tuesday afternoon its energetic proprietor, Daron Letts, invited Yellowknifer in for a relaxing chat about moving on.

The store was as it will remain in memories, the size of two small bedrooms and stacked to the ceiling with books of every single kind, and along every spare space of wall.

Letts was eager to give a tour, even for an experienced customer, and he quickly listed off almost 15 different sections and genres of book. As the list went on, it seemed improbable for the size of the place. His colourful den of enlightenment contains tomes of self-help, gender studies, war and peace, activism, gardening, children's literature, dusty classics, Northern stories, a variety of cuisines, art critique and even a couple copies of the Bible. That's not mentioning the works of art and craft.

"The books will find loving homes and deserving readers," he said, when asked of their fate.

He is giving those deserving readers two more days to come down and pick up their favorite book and have one last musical shopping experience. Saturday and Sunday will be a closing out sale and celebration for Squatterz, and all are invited.

"It's a wake for the store," Letts said.

He described the closing of the store as a positive thing, and referred to the weekend as a "new beginning," in spite of the dire connotations of the word "wake." However, he offered little clarification in his reasoning for closing the store.

"I lost my magical powers," he said cryptically.

While sitting in his favorite corner room of the charmingly chaotic store, and surrounded by the mellow melodies of Dana Sipos from the CD player, the explanation seemed perfectly anchored in logic. He's not leaving town, he said, offering up the information that he has now been in the North for three years, and has only left for four days, none of which were consecutive.

With that issue settled, the topic drifted to the bookstore's history itself. Letts said he is going to miss the unique experience of meeting people over books. He said one of the best parts of running the store was being able to connect people with a particular book that they were looking for, and some of the rare finds that have come through the doors.

"People have come in with special and rare books to show me. I have been able to see things you would not normally encounter outside of a museum archive," he said.

"It's hard to commodify books. They have a personality of their own and people develop special attachments to them. You can really get to know a person by talking to them about the books they like," he said.

He hopes the space that houses the store will stay creative, and mentions that Old Town has more than enough talented, driven individuals to keep life interesting in the neighbourhood of the capital's birth.

"Old Town is imbued with a creative and energetic spirit, and this community will be a place to be and experience this summer," he said.

He was not sure about whether he would be involved in this year's Old Town Ramble and Ride, but said much of the planning is already underway for the second annual event. He also wasn't sure what the future would hold for him, though he was pretty sure he'd get his magic powers back eventually.

"It takes about three months. I have lost them before, and they always come back," he said.

The store will be open from 10 am to 7 p.m. tomorrow and 10 am to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Letts said there will be live music hosted by Dana Sipos and celebration starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, and the regular open mike with Darin Woodbury will take place on Sunday.