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Whistler’s Armchair Books records its 1 millionth customer

Cade Turna, a bookseller from the U.K., won $100 gift card on her short trip to Whistler 
E-Arts2 Armchair Books 29(1)
Thirty-two-year-old Newcastle resident Cade Turna—who, funnily enough, has worked as a bookseller for the past decade—became Armchair Books’ 1 millionth recorded customer on Thursday, June 2.

Whistler’s beloved, long-running bookstore, Armchair Books, officially recorded its 1 millionth customer last week, and, as fate would have it, it was a fellow bookseller who took home the distinction. 

Cade Turna, 32, was visiting Whistler from the U.K. on Thursday, June 2, when she made her second stop to the village store in less than 24 hours. The day prior, the Newcastle native had purchased the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy series, Mistborn, and enjoyed it so much that she returned the following day to pick up the next instalment. 

“I was totally shocked,” she says when reached by phone from the Vancouver airport waiting to board her flight back to England. “I went back, and I can’t pass up a bookstore at the best of times, so I was browsing for ages anyway. Then I went to get the second [book in the series] and [the clerk] was like, ‘Don’t go anywhere. You’ve won.’ Then I got very excited again.” 

A 10-year employee of U.K. bookstore chain Waterstones, it felt destined that Turna took home the honour, along with a $100 gift card. 

“It could have been anyone,” says Armchair owner Dan Ellis. “Honestly, it could have been a local, it could have been someone from Arkansas—it could have been anyone that walked in here. It could have been someone buying a newspaper, and it just turned out to be this woman who was visiting and she works in a bookstore.” 

Although Turna marked the 1 millionth recorded customer, technically speaking, the shop has served more bookworms than that since Ellis’ mom first opened the store out of its original location in 1982. However, it wasn’t until 2001 that Armchair switched to a computerized system, when the official tally began. 

For Turna, an admitted bibliophile, Armchair was like an oasis in the desert. After spending much of her Western Canadian trip on solo hikes in the wilderness, Armchair was the first bookstore she came across—and it couldn’t have come at a more fortuitous time. 

“I love going to bookstores. To be honest, it’s a horrible addiction,” she says. “It was the first bookstore I’d seen in Canada, because I’ve been in Canada for a few weeks now. And I’d been to Calgary, Jasper, Sun Peaks and then Whistler, and was like, ‘Ooh finally, a bookstore.’ 

“As soon as I found it, I was so happy. Bookstores are my little happy place.”

This year marks Armchair Books’ 40th anniversary, and the small-but-mighty shop shows no signs of slowing down, despite the doomsayers’ predictions for years now that the independent bookshop would soon become a thing of the past in the face of online retail giants like Amazon and the rise of the e-reader. In fact, to hear Ellis tell it, the shop is thriving, thanks to both its dedicated Sea to Sky fanbase and its steady flow of visitors. 

“Yeah, we had a lean time, for sure, because of the e-reader, but eventually people realized that having a book in their hands, to feel the pages, is a better reading experience than having a digital device in their lap,” he explains. “On top of that, I think there’s just a growing sense that any owner-operated business is more valuable than a corporate giant, because they are in a community, they contribute to a community, they give character to a community, whereas the big companies don’t. I think that sentiment has grown and grown and grown.” 

With her flying across the pond the following day, you can be sure Turna made good use of her gift card, coming away with four books and a sticker. But it wasn’t just her prodigious haul that left her with the warm-fuzzies. 

“There was a ladder on the wall and I asked if I could stand on the ladder to reach books, and [the clerk] said yes. I can’t tell you how happy that made me,” she says. 

Armchair Books is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Learn more at whistlerbooks.ca