Photos by Catherine Goce
By Ethan Nella
Whether it is a tranquil and solitary nook to sit down and dip into a new read or simply a quick and efficient source for delving into a research topic, bookstores are generally understood as spaces that primarily serve our needs. As our consumption becomes more confined by the use of algorithms and massive online retailers, many are aghast at the idea of not having that convenience.
However, King West Books, located in the former space of Bryan Prince Bookseller at the corner of Sterling Street and King Street West, is not your typical bookstore. Dave Kuruc, who co-owns the store and its next-door space, Mixed Media, with his wife Terésa Devries, is not a fan of typicality.
A storied Hamiltonian, Kuruc found his footing on James Street North in 2005, creating the art supply shop Mixed Media, who along with galleries like You Me and Centre 3 for Print and Media Arts, revitalized the quiet North End into the populous, arts-driven cultural hub it is known for today.
After 13 years of downtown life, the duo decided to move business closer to home and family, and coincidentally, right into the former shop of another book store, whose legendary career Kuruc mentions frequently during our time together. Yet for those hoping King West Books will add a little James Street North character to Westdale, this is simply not the case.
“It’s just not possible. What we did there was at a different time, and this time around we’re bringing an established business to an already established neighbourhood. And for a lot of people, you’re only coming to Westdale if you’re a student or if you’re here for a reason, so it doesn’t have that same electricity that James Street had,” explained Kuruc.
Yet just by stepping through the pastel blue storefront, one can see that the same signature touch Kuruc brought to James is still very much alive. The warm and inviting space is filled from floor-to-ceiling with beautiful renditions of classic must-reads, local literature and selections on the history of Hamilton and Indigenous culture. The store also places an emphasis on displaying the books’ art, something Kuruc cultivated from his history in graphic design.
“We stock a lot of things we like, and we also stock a lot of things that were part of our life on James Street. We do have fiction and non-fiction areas, but when you start to see the titles, you’ll see a classic next to something you’ve never heard of before. We also have a lot of books on cities and neighbourhoods, so not only the things we love but the things we want you to learn about, but also you’re going to find the weird quirky things you didn’t even know existed,” explained Kuruc.
Although King West Books accepts customer book requests as well, for Kuruc, bookstores should be about discovery. Influenced by older bookshops from his youth and travels around Europe, Kuruc says King West’s constantly changing stock will not always have what you’re looking for, but you’ll more than likely walk away with a new find; a unique experience you wouldn’t get at a popular provider.
Alike his residency at James Street North, Kuruc also believes the new location will connect with the town of Westdale and open up new avenues to foster community and culture. Kuruc mentions that with the eventual opening of the newly renovated Westdale Theatre, there will hopefully be more chances to create events between the two establishments and get people out into the streets.
In the meantime, Kuruc has already set up King West Book’s first literature reading. The space will be the scene of a book launch for esteemed Hamilton poet John Terpstra’s new collection Daylight in Chedoke, taking place on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. Kuruc is excited to expose more people to local artists, something he feels honoured to be able to mediate at his new space.
“I think we take Hamilton for granted and that there are stories here and writers who are sharing those stories with us, yet we don’t know them. I think when you know a bit more about your city, there’s more of a connection. Whether it’s in a book or face-to-face over the counter, I think that’s a big part of being in this role here,” said Kuruc.