Inside Penguin’s bright, beautiful new bookstore

By Jennifer Cheng| Photography by Giordano Ciampini
Inside Penguin's bright, beautiful new bookstore

Attention, book lovers: your chances of running into Margaret Atwood just increased tenfold, thanks to Penguin Random House Canada’s new bookstore. The publisher’s first permanent shop is located in the lobby of its Front Street West office, and it packs a lot of reading material into 158 square feet. There are about 300 titles (including those from the Drop Caps and tiny Pocket Penguins series), tucked into sliding shelves that are designed to look like giant books and disappear into the wall, and a slew of book merch, like Moby-Dick t-shirts and Pride and Prejudice mugs. Company staff—editors and designers alike—man the store and dole out quality reading recommendations. “We hope to help visitors find their next great book,” says chief operating officer Robert Wheaton. “And if we don’t carry it, we’ll call Book City, for instance, to put it on hold.” Here’s a closer look inside the space.

Toronto-based design studio Figure3 created the mobile bookshelves. Staff can change the spines in under two hours to keep the titles fresh:


A colour-coded shelf contains 30 iconic titles (like Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion) from three paperback imprints: Anchor Canada, Emblem Editions and Vintage Canada.


The Penguin Picks program recommends Canadian authors’ beloved books (Joseph Boyden, for instance, chose Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian, among others), as well as staff favourites. This is Wheaton’s pick:


These adorable enamel pins are available only at the Penguin Shop ($8 each, or three for $20):


The shop is meant for all ages. To wit: this onesie comes in baby blue, pink, yellow, and black and white ($20). They have bibs, too.


Jack Kerouac mugs, for when wanderlust strikes ($12):


Also available in the store: metallic-cover editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald novels ($26–$33), book-themed notebooks ($9–$20), and luggage tags and key rings ($5).


Every author dreams of seeing their book title on a tote. The shop has a dozen options ($15–$20):


Here’s the hidden employee nook. No cash register in this book shop—it’s all about the iPad:


The cozy alcove used to be a shoe repair counter:


Forget the days of no phones in bookstores—Wheaton says the shop is designed to be Instagrammable. When bibliophiles pop in, he wants them to take selfies:


320 Front St. W., 416-364-4449, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays,



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