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Neighbourhood bookstore helping connect people and ideas

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Element Bookstore and Tea Room at 284 Taché Ave., Norwood’s newest neighbourhood bookshop, hopes to create a space in which folks not only want to buy books, but also share ideas and build community spirit.  

The current owner, Colin Hamlin, a frequent client of Plato’s Cave, the previous bookshop on the same site, has merged his passion for books and ideas with his interest in being a social entrepreneur. He bought out the former owners earlier this year.

The remodelled space is partly inspired by Sir Ken Robinson’s book, The Element, a fascinating collection of stories about famous persons seeking and finding their passion or "element." In the same vein, Colin believes his neighbourhood bookshop can be a powerful tool to help inspire people to live truly fulfilled lives.  

Colin is not a quiet, unassuming, Dewey-Decimal-librarian type. He gets energized, even animated, by ideas in books and from people who come into the store.

He likens his quaint bookshop to a third space, a term originally coined by Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, who believes that people need spaces to meet and hang out that are not home or work. Colin believes that "people need places to think and to examine their own potential beyond their everyday routine."

And the people are coming, thanks mostly to word of mouth. Various groups meet regularly to discuss books and ideas. Colin hopes to expand his vision to include open-mike type of activities — poetry readings, music acts, prose readings — anything that brings the community together to appreciate art, science and discussion.

He is currently drafting a book about a new field of scientific research referred to as "universics." In it, he challenges our current notions of the origins of the universe, and postulates that our universe is not alone. The book has piqued the interest of a major American academic press.

But he is not just interested in science. Colin appreciates literature, ideas and reading of all types. A huge section in the bookstore centers on science and theories of the universe. Another section is devoted to literary classics, another to fiction and current bestsellers, another to children’s lit. There’s even an old book section with selections that date back to 1860.

He tutors junior high and high school students in the shop as well. "I want to inspire kids to take control over their own education and their lives, to get excited about learning and finding their passions."

The gently-used books in his ever-expanding collection are in great shape and they’re cheap. If you have a special request or are looking for a particular book, Colin will search tirelessly for you. He is an entrepreneur, but he is not driven by financial gain. His greatest hope for the shop is to connect people, young and old. He believes in the power of books to transform people.

"In a culture driven by marketing and 60-second sound bytes, reading books from start to finish is proving to be a habit that practically guarantees success," Colin says. "I believe that the depth of knowledge and character one can attain is unmatched by any other media."

You can reach Colin at 204-930-4263 to join or create a reading or discussion group, to order a book you can’t find anywhere else, or to book an appointment for your son or daughter with a truly inspirational tutor.

Adriano Magnifico is a community correspondent for St. Boniface. You can contact him at

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