Way back in the early 1970's, before social media and the use of postal codes, The Bookshelf started on its path to becoming a community hub. Lady Margaret Atwood was just starting her oracular rise and many students were pouring over the Whole Earth Catalogue. Customers quickly became participants in wide ranging conversations and many hung around for hours just for the fun of it! Over the decades The Bookshelf became a favourite spot for literary readings which included many luminaries such as John Irving, Timothy Findley, A.S. Byatt, Michael Ondaatje, Karen Armstrong, Al Purdy, Ann-Marie Macdonald, Joseph Boyden, Margaret Atwood and many others. It has developed strong community partnerships with groups such as Café Philosphique from the University of Guelph, The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, The Commonwealth Writers’ Festival, The Go Go Grandmothers and The Guelph Film Festival, just to name a few.
The bookstore was opened in 1973 by Barb and Doug Minett in the halcyon days of neighbourhood bookselling. In 1980, The Bookshelf became The Bookshelf Cafe - Canada's first bookstore cafe/restaurant in an era when quiche and white wine ruled.
Casual conversations over beer with cafe staff and customers led to a slightly ridiculous and ambitious plan to add a cinema and bar on what was then the roof of the bookstore cafe. During the implementation period of the plan U of G physics professor and longtime customer, Jim Hunt, miraculously trained a ragtag team of 10 cafe servers and booksellers in the art & science of 35mm projection. In 1988 The Bookshelf Cinema showed its first film. Over 20,000 shows and 1,000,000 cinema goers later, the cinema continues to offer 14-15 shows a week with its fancy digital projection and great sound system.
In the year following the development of the original bookshelf.ca (Canada's first full-service online bookstore - sold to Indigo in the late 90s), The Bookshelf team embarked on "the great leap sideways" expanding all aspects of the emporium by re-building the building next door and adding a great music venue: the eBar. Many great Canadian musical talents including Serena Ryder, the Constantines and Sarah Harmer have graced the eBar stage. Don't miss great craft beers with dj's and dancing every Saturday night and LGBT Fierce celebrations and lots more! Check out our calendar!
Over the years The Bookshelf has operated a number of food and beverage operations - originally with its own staff and later in collaboration with others. In 2015 The Bookshelf welcomed Miijidaa ("Let's Eat") as its restaurant collaborator.
The brother sister team of Ben Minett and Hannah Minett assumed ownership in 2012 and have overseen the expansion of services through the addition of online ordering and bookshelf.ca's new online magazine. They are supported in the enterprise by their long time staff of book and film lovers, and music impressarios. There are over 200 years of cumulative bookselling, cinema, and music experience, and if there ever were a spare moment, producing a TV show about a day in the life of The Bookshelf might be pretty entertaining.