Local bookstore bound to have a happy ending
The story of Nerman’s Books and Collectibles is nearing its conclusion. But it’s certainly a success story.
As announced in late December, the used bookstore – to many, a South Osborne institution – is closing its doors in March, hoping to liquidate much of its inventory before the new owner of the building takes possession.
Reflecting on the evolution of the business, owner Gary Nerman says it began as a mail-order operation in the 1980s and slowly developed into more of a traditional retail store after rooting itself in the neighbourhood.
“When we moved to Osborne South, our sales were 95 per cent online and five per cent in the store. But now it’s more 50/50,” he said.
After building a database of his books using his kids’ Atari ST computer, Nerman equipped himself for selling online early on, starting with AbeBooks in the 1990s. This enabled the business to benefit from trends such as the rise of Amazon and the growth in online purchasing sparked by the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Regarding the latter, “it was terrible and isolating but I was always super-busy… locally our sales went down but it more than made up for it on the internet,” Nerman said. He estimated that total sales were up 30 to 40 per cent in the last couple of years as people took more to reading and collecting during the pandemic.
Another factor contributing to the longevity of Nerman’s business was the fact he owned the building.
“Your regular brick-and-mortar book sellers are a dying breed… our city up until recently had the second-most used book sellers per capita in North America and the reason for that would simply be cheap rent – Winnipeg has cheaper rent. Now, as rents go up it’s forcing the booksellers out,” Nerman said.
Nerman is retiring on his own terms, however. After 35 years in the book business, he feels it’s time to move on. He will no longer have a storefront but plans to continue selling books and collectibles in some capacity, including at antique and comic book shows.
“Because that’s fun. And you get to choose when to do them and when not to do them,” he said.
Looking back, Nerman says he feels very lucky to have had such a low-stress, enjoyable career, highlighting the excitement of hunting for unique items and finding great books.
“I was quite happy,” he said. “If I had to do it again, I would do it again.”
South Osborne community correspondent
Tracy Groenewegen is a community correspondent for South Osborne. She can be reached at email@example.com