Little did Angela and Ron Hill realize when they opened Village Books & Coffee House in March 2013 the book vending playing field in Richmond would vastly alter a year later. In May 2014 with the closing of two major Richmond bookshops (Chapters and Black Bond Books) their Steveston business has become one of the only remaining contenders on Lulu Island.
While the married couple and business partners are disappointed to see these shops go, they are taking the opportunity to draw a new market to their bookstore which is alive and well in Steveston village.
Village Books & Coffee House evolved from Gerry’s Books, which was located on First Avenue. Ron Hill’s parents Gerry and Sonja Hill opened the store in 1988. When the time came to sell they approached their son and daughter-in-law who had been running the business since January 2011. In January 2013 Angela and Ron Hill decided to make some big changes to the business and moved it two doors down to a larger retail space. After a couple of months spent renovating and moving 50,000 books, Village Books & Coffee House opened its door.
A new business concept accompanied the new location. They incorporated a coffee bar and a few tables where customers can make themselves at home. The Hills assumed that the coffee house would help supplement books sales, however, they have been pleasantly surprised to discover that books are selling remarkably well.
Nice touches like oversized letters in assorted colours spell READ and COFFEE create an inviting and homelike feel. Angela gives her husband full credit for the interior design. The pine bookcases (built by himself and a friend) placed in an almost maze like pattern, encourage people to meander through the shop and discover literary gems along the way.
Village Books & Coffee House primarily sells used books, however with their new role as one of the only bookstores in town, the Hills plan to introduce a larger selection of new books to fill the demand. Customers will also be able to place special orders. The selection of used books is vast and ranges, in very organized sections, from historical romance to general fiction, historical fiction, poetry, literature, children’s books, cookbooks, architecture, art, crafts, non-fiction, current events, history, spiritual and self-help.
If you are interested in trading in books the shop offers a credit program, which they apply to the purchase of second hand books. It is a great way to bring home some fresh reading material.
As booksellers the couple frequently are asked what they like to read. Currently Angela is reading “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and she has a stack of parenting and cookbooks on her beside table. One of her favourite authors is Chevy Stevens, a Vancouver Island author who writes thrillers set in British Columbia. Angela recommends “Never Knowing” as one of her top picks. Ron is an action and suspense fan and enjoys British author Lee Child. They also have three part-time staff that are avid readers and are happy to assist you in searching the shelves.
These busy merchants are the parents of two young boys. During the summer the Hills alternate time at the shop to care for their children. Angela is also hard at work as a part-time student studying bookkeeping at Langara College. Ron has recently joined the Steveston Merchants Association as a board member.
There are plenty of ideas percolating to take Village Books & Coffee House in new directions and to further increase its exposure. Angela mentions that the group Richmond Write Out Loud meets at the shop on occasional evenings to read their published or unpublished works. Future plans include introducing story times for children and organizing book clubs for adults.
At the coffee counter the couple is committed to selling sustainable and high-quality products. They are proud to serve 49th Parallel coffee from the Burnaby-based roasting company. Herbal Republic Tea and cold beverages (lemonade and fruit smoothies) are also on the menu. They are always experimenting with drinks and come up with some wonderful seasonal concoctions.
Solly’s Bakery in Vancouver is the supplier of the majority of baked goods that they sell. A few of the tempting items include muffins, cinnamon buns, date squares and apple strudel. One of their most popular goodies (made by Mangala Foods) is the B Square. This gluten-free vegan treat is chock-a-block full of delicious goodness with dark chocolate, brown rice, pumpkin and chia seeds, raw almonds and cashews.
Philanthropy is important to the couple. They choose to donate books they cannot use to a number of local charities including the Richmond Hospital Auxiliary, The Richmond Food Bank, Women’s Hospital as well to preschools and other local organizations. They are also respectful of the environment and source products that are either recyclable or compostable. Attention gardeners! If you would like some coffee grounds for the nitrogen-loving plants in your garden, bring in a bucket and they will fill it for you.
Reflecting back Angela says, “We could have called the store ‘My Favourite Things.'” Books, 49th Parallel coffee, Herbal Republic Tea and Solly’s bakery are a few of her favourite things, as are their long term customers who have supported them over the years, and the new ones who discover them on a daily basis.
The next time you walk down First Avenue make a point of stopping in and exploring Village Books & Coffee House. You may come out with something that you were looking for, or perhaps you will leave with an unexpected book that jumps out at you and will be a great midsummer read.
Village Books & Coffee House
130-12031 First Ave
Richmond BC V7E 3M1