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By BK Munn
So, since the Toronto Comic Arts Festival opened up a store inside the Toronto Reference Library last week I’ve had a chance to get a little more information about the new venture, as well as to take a look at some photos (the space is huge!). I spoke via email with Andrew Woodrow Butcher, who is, among his other jobs, the Programming Co-ordinator for Kids, Library & Educator Programs at TCAF, about the store and future plans for it. The big news I think that wasn’t clear at the outset is that this will be a permanent, all-year-round space totally devoted to promoting TCAF (i.e., not just for the holidays or the months leading up to TCAF). The library itself has also noted that “This venture will create a new revenue source for the Toronto Public Library Board that will go toward funding library programs and services.” So win-win. But I’ll let Andrew explain:
Sequential: Andrew, do you intend it as a permanent space in partnership with the library or are you looking at locations elsewhere? Do you sell library stuff too? Does TCAF actually have an office somewhere or is it run out of people’s homes/back room of comic shops?
Andrew Woodrow Butcher: Yes, we’ll be here on a permanent basis. Things came together really quickly, so we’re operating through December as more of a Pop-up Shop. That said, we do have some library- and book-themed merchandise (t-shirts, tote bags…) in stock now, as well as a few lines of journals, notebooks, and sketchbooks. In the new year you’ll see us continue to add not only “gift shop” types of product lines, but also writing and art materials, more artist-exclusive merchandise, and merchandise related to our partnership with Toronto Public Library.
Sequential: What is the relationship between the new shop and Beguiling/Little Island Books (shared staff, stock)? Will it be self-sustaining?
Andrew Woodrow Butcher: The TCAF Shop operates separately from The Beguiling, and will not only be self-sustaining, but will provide a new revenue stream for the Festival itself. Proceeds from the Shop support not only the annual Festival, which runs on May 8th-10th 2015, but also TCAF’s other events and activities year-round.
Sequential: How is TCAF doing in terms of other fundraising, like grants?
Andrew Woodrow Butcher: In the past we have received grants from all three levels of government. And we continue to pursue all appropriate/pertinent funding sources.
Sequential: What can we expect in terms of upcoming promotions, signings, or new books at the new shop?
Andrew Woodrow Butcher: We opened the shop with the launch of Chip Zdarsky’s and Matt Fraction’s Just the Tips, which was hugely successful. Our featured artist exclusive product right now is the gorgeous gift wrap that John Martz created for us – there are two designs available: snowflakes or robots!
Sequential: Any other TCAF news?
Andrew Woodrow Butcher: We hope to have a name and “brand identity” and such for the new year. For now the TCAF Pop-up Shop or TCAF Shop will do! TCAF also just a few weeks ago exhibited for the third year in a row at the Kaigai Manga Festa in Tokyo, as part of our continuing mission to promote Canadian cartooning on a world stage. Those two things have kept us pretty busy this month!
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photos: Andrew Woodrow Butcher (top), Zdarsky signing and general view of the new shop (bottom) –courtesy TCAF