‘A community space as well as a shop’: Brothers open new bookstore in East City

Take Cover Books opens this week on Hunter Street East. One of its goals? To spread empathy through reading.
Andrew (left) and Sean Fitzpatrick of Take Cover Books. “We believe that books are for everyone, and that empathy starts at a reading level,” Andrew said. “So the stories that we stock here are meant to provide people with access to other people’s lives in a meaningful way.” (Photo: Brett Throop)

Growing up, brothers Andrew and Sean Fitzpatrick had a shared book collection and loved talking about what they read together.

Now nerding out on books is their full-time job as the owners of Take Cover Books, which opens on Hunter Street in East City on Tuesday.

“People were asking for this,” said Andrew. The business started as an online bookseller in September 2022, but he said customers soon urged the pair to open a brick-and-mortar shop.

They were awarded a $5,000 business grant through Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development to help get it up and running.

Currents’ Brett Throop caught up with the brothers as they prepared for opening day. He started by asking what kind of titles people can find on the shelves.

ANDREW: We have everything from commercial and literary fiction, to poetry, to cookbooks, to nonfiction – lots of leftist and socialist nonfiction. We are aiming to have something for everyone. We believe that books are for everyone, and that empathy starts at a reading level. So the stories that we stock here are meant to provide people with access to other people’s lives in a meaningful way.

BRETT: You’ve been running this as a virtual bookstore for the last year. Why did you decide to open a brick-and-mortar store?

ANDREW: This was always a goal. It happened a little faster than we thought it would, because the uptake on the online store was solid. Online bookstores are wonderful. But you miss that tactile feeling.

BRETT: You said you always planned to open a physical store. Do you mean for the last year or since the two of you were on the playground together?

ANDREW: The two of us have always been collectors. Up until we were adults we shared our CD collection and our book collection. We have always been avid record collectors. We’ve always traded books back and forth. And we just kind of throw ideas around. The idea for a bookstore came up, and we both just kind of hopped on it.

“Peterborough has a really great history of bookstores”

BRETT: It’s interesting that you said there’s a lot of demand, because it seems like people keep writing obituaries for the independent bookstore. And there’s kind of a graveyard of Peterborough bookstores that have come and gone.

ANDREW: Peterborough has a really great history of bookstores. When we look back at Hunter Street Books and Titles – and also the three used bookstores that are doing well downtown – they all did really well. They all closed by choice, not because they were forced to because of the economic landscape.

SEAN: People are getting more wise to the fact that when you order a book [from a retail giant like Amazon or Indigo] you’re kind of engaged in this highly-exploitative machine to get that book to your door. But when you order a book from us, we will come to your door. We can have a more personal relationship with the books that we sell, with the customers that we serve.

ANDREW: I think the most important thing is that you can look someone in the eye, ask them a personal question about what they like to read, what they find engaging, and actually respond to it.

BRETT: You mentioned delivery. When you first opened, you were delivering books by bike. Do you still do that?

ANDREW: I did all my Valentine’s Day deliveries on a bike; it was very romantic. Now that there are more deliveries, we do take a car when necessary.

BRETT: You plan to host events at the store. What kind?

SEAN: We would like to do film screenings. If you watch Gilmore Girls, they have this theatre that they construct out of their bookstore in the town. I always thought that was such a cool idea. We’ll obviously also do book events.

ANDREW: We currently have a book club that’s been online for the last six months. We’re discussing putting it as a monthly event in the store. I think the largest portion of events is going to be author readings, signings – traditional bookstore stuff. This space is more than just a place to sell books. We want to make it available as a community space.

“It’s not conflict free, but we know how to address conflict with each other”

BRETT: Did you guys grow up in Peterborough? Where are you from?

ANDREW: We grew up in the suburbs of Toronto. I moved here in spring 2021. My partner’s from here. We moved here and loved it. We’ve just slowly been convincing all the people we love to come here. When we started the store, we had a conversation about Sean moving in from Toronto and he and his partner just did.

SEAN: Every time I visited I loved it here. It’s just got a nice vibe. People are very nice here.

BRETT: Are there any bookstores you took inspiration from in starting this place?

SEAN: There’s a place in Toronto called Queen Books that was in our neighbourhood. It was a small space and they could order anything in for you. It also had just a great selection. The staff was always nice; they allowed you to come in with your dog. So naturally, we stole a few of those ideas.

BRETT: So dogs will be allowed here?

ANDREW: Dogs of course are welcome. But let’s make sure that if we’re entering the shop with our dog, they also like the potential of encountering another pup.

SEAN: Yeah, it’s not a dog park (laughs).

BRETT: But it could be.

SEAN: It could be. I wouldn’t complain if it became a dog park.

ANDREW: About Queen Books: it was the first time in my life where I felt like I had a local book shop. You were known there.

SEAN: That idea that this is a community space as well as a shop – I really loved that part of it.

BRETT: What’s it like to work together as brothers?

ANDREW: We have been doing this basically since we were teenagers. We were in a band together. We’re very close.

SEAN: This is definitely the most business we’ve done together. It’s not conflict free, but we know how to address conflict with each other.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


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