Local Hero: Nancy Frater, a woman who is clearly at the top of her game, this year Nancy became president of the Canadian Booksellers Association. “
Nancy Frater: One of our 2008 Local Heroes
Headwaters Central Intelligence Agency
Spend an hour with Nancy Frater and you come away with a whole new sense of what community means. Next year, her independent bookstore, BookLore, will celebrate its twentieth year in business. In that time, it has become much more than somewhere to pick up the latest paperback. As Nancy will tell you, it’s a place for the “meeting of ideas.”
Nancy and her late business partner and friend, Ellen Clare, dreamed for years about opening their own bookstore. “Finally, one weekend we were together with some other people. We talked again, and that was it.” BookLore had been born.
“In those days there wasn’t much cultural focus in the area,” Nancy goes on. “That was before Theatre Orangeville, the Dufferin County Museum and Archives, and In The Hills. We started having authors readings, and that was something new. We brought in some big names, like Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, Pierre Berton and others, and we’d sell out 250 tickets right away.” Over the years, BookLore has sponsored more than 250 readings and presentations.
For Nancy, “The store is an extension of the community. Without the arts, you don’t have a community, and watching that scene grow has been so rewarding. Now there are vehicles to express all the talent in the area.”
Nancy has played a big part in that development over the years, helping many groups achieve their goals, sometimes as a board member, sometimes through partnerships with her store. Among them are Theatre Orangeville, Monday Night at the Movies, the Headwaters Arts Festival and Kids Fest, the Library Festival, the Hills of Headwaters Tourism Association, and the Dufferin arm of the Canadian Cancer Society. Her legendary support for local authors “has been a mandate since we opened.” A resource for local book clubs, BookLore also runs its own club, and programs for children.
BookLore’s integral role in the Headwaters cultural scene is consistent with Nancy’s keen sense of the intersection of community and business principles. “We’ve also earned respect with good customer service, our collection, and our efforts to make everyone feel comfortable in the store.” And, she adds, “It’s not a one-person show. Our staff, the community – on the tough days, that’s what carries you through.”
And there have been some very tough days. In 2004, Ellen Clare died of cancer. “She had been so instrumental in everything,” Nancy says. “I ended up getting ill the next year, just from trying to take it all on. There was never any thought of stopping though.”
A woman who is clearly at the top of her game, this year Nancy became president of the Canadian Booksellers Association. “It’s not an easy time for independent booksellers, she says. “The slow economy, competitiveness, chains, online sales and U.S. pricing are all big challenges.” One of her goal’s as president will be to promote a “step toward localism in the market. Bigger is not better, and I think we’ll see a slow paradigm shift away from the big-box model. There’s great value in shopping the independents, and the dollars stay in the community.”
With a business philosophy founded on the idea that enthusiasm makes the most of opportunities, Nancy sums up her life at the helm of our very own Central Intelligence Agency like this: “There’s not a day I don’t love to get up and come to the store.”