South Osborne mainstay ready to turn the page


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Gary Nerman figures it’s time to retire, but he has about 103,000 books and vintage magazines to sell first.

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Gary Nerman figures it’s time to retire, but he has about 103,000 books and vintage magazines to sell first.

The 68-year-old owner of Nerman’s Books and Collectibles has run his business in the South Osborne neighbourhood since 1996. He bought the building at 700 Osborne St. that houses his rare book shop in 2005.

But he got his start as a mail-order seller specializing in children’s books in the late 1980s, almost by accident.


Gary Nerman, owner of Nerman’s Books and Collectibles.

“I always collected antiques, and I started collecting books, and I got all these books — they’re called Whitmans, children’s books from the ’50s — so I had hundreds of these and I said, ‘How do I get rid of them?’” Nerman said.

“I just got an Atari ST computer… and it had a data program so I typed them all in and sent out catalogues and started selling them.”

Customers really wanted books in the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, he said, and while he was working as a travelling salesman, he would stop in at used book stores and search for rarities.

“There was no internet, so nobody knew what stuff was worth,” he said, recalling the discovery of books worth $100 marked at $1.

“In the beginning it was just children’s books; at one point, I had the largest collection of used children’s books in North America.”

Now, Nerman said, he’s going to hold a liquidation sale in an effort to get rid of his stock — worth about $1 million, he figures — before the building’s next owner takes possession March 31.

Optimistically, he hopes to sell about half of the books he has stacked up in the small shop and in storage, and hopes a charity would be interested in taking the rest.

“There’s got to be somebody out there that wants half a million dollars worth of books,” said Nerman, who plans to travel and sell books at flea markets in retirement.


The building’s next owner takes possession March 31.

“They’re good, we have a great stock.”

Erick Casselman, owner of the Park Theatre next door, purchased Nerman’s building for an undisclosed price.

Casselman hopes to open a new venture next fall after extensive renovations. He would not reveal much, noting plans with his business partners have not been solidified, but said it will be a separate entity — the renovations won’t include knocking down walls to expand the theatre.

“It’s something that’s been in the works for quite some time, and would’ve been done sooner if it wasn’t for COVID… it’s always been the ultimate goal, plan for the Park Theatre and what our vision was for the neighbourhood,” he said.

“A business that’s complimentary to what we do at the Park already that does have a liquor licence.”

Nerman and Scott Tackaberry, who chairs the South Osborne BIZ, said they think the new business will be focused on food and beverage service.

It’s another change in a neighbourhood that’s boomed in recent years.

“When I first opened up, the Park had been abandoned for a decade or longer,” Casselman said. “It was a lot of second-hand shops and what have you up and down the street, and now it’s more restaurants, more vibrancy, more people who are upkeeping it, fixing up the front of the buildings.”


Nerman figures he has about 103,000 books and vintage magazines in the shop.

In addition to chairing the business group, Tackaberry owns GameKnight Games, Grape & Grain homebrewing shop and microbrewery Dastardly Villain Brewing Co., with a taproom under construction at 726 Osborne St.

“It will be a change — I think it will be positive,” Tackaberry said of Casselman’s new venture.

“Certainly the book store was an attraction to the neighbourhood, but I’m certain a new pub or new bar, whatever Erick’s got planned, will also draw people in.”

Twitter: @erik_pindera

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Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.

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