This story was originally published in the March 2013 issue of South End Magazine.
After decades in business, Atlantic News continues to be a favourite for South End readers.
Michele Gerard first learned of Atlantic News when, as a young adult and new to the city, she was looking for a copy of Shaman’s Drum. Someone suggested she visit the newsstand on the corner of Morris and Queen streets, where she ended up getting her hands on the magazine.
Gerard and her husband began working at Atlantic News in 1994; by 1998 they became its owners. “If you’re in the right job, you should look forward to coming to work, feel energized most of the time, feel your contribution is appreciated, feel proud when describing your work and enjoy the respect of the people that you work with,” Gerard reads from a “reminder” she’s posted on her office wall. She says 19 years later, she still feels this way about Atlantic News.
One aspect that thrills Gerard most is that they cater to such a diverse clientele. With 5,000 magazine titles, about 30 Atlantic Canadian newspapers (from dailies to monthlies), and the ability to print by demand more than 2,000 newspapers from 95 different countries, there is truly something for every interest. “One of the amazing things about this place is it’s literally every single walk of life that comes in, from the 86-year-old woman who comes in every month for some English magazines to an avid birdwatcher who happens to be hearing impaired,” says Gerard.
Atlantic News also carries numerous books ordered from local publishers, such as Nimbus, Pottersfield and Formac, as well as from elsewhere in the country, to compliment the magazine categories. For example, their regional section (carrying titles like Halifax Magazine, Progress, East Coast Living, and Celtic Life International) also includes books like Ghost Islands of Nova Scotia.
Whether it’s retailing locally produced baked goods from Deli Green, serving as a drop-off for Video Difference or selling the annual Bide-A-While calendar, Gerard values the fact that her business has deep connections with the community. One way they’ve fostered these bonds is through supporting the local arts scene. Gerard is on the Word on the Street board, and Atlantic News has helped sponsor the event for several years. “It’s such a great festival and literacy is such a natural fit with the store,” she says. They have also supported companies such as Zuppa Theatre and Live Art Dance, and two of her artistic staff members are planning on creating a project for this year’s Nocturne.
“People also consider the environment here a part of their cultural experience, whether it’s on their way to the farmers’ market, the Public Gardens or a nearby café,” says Gerard. “Those are all part of one’s life experience and we’re a part of that. But it’s changing….”
These changes are not that less people are interested in print magazines. “I completely believe that print is here to stay,” said Gerard in an interview with The Malahat Review. “Recently in the MARC [Magazines at Retail Canada] 2012 study, 71 per cent of Canadian magazine readers report they prefer the print format.”
What Gerard has researched, however, is that people are choosing to spend their leisure time differently, and in many cases this equates to allocating more time to online forums like Facebook or Twitter, rather than reading a print or digital magazine. “I’m concerned about what I see happening because accessibility to the Internet is everywhere,” says Gerard. “The sense of adventure, the sense of destination, the sense of ‘wouldn’t it be fun to go for a walk and go to Atlantic News’—I’m not sure if that mindset will continue to be a part of one’s lifestyle.”
But still, many have not yet been swallowed up into virtual cocoons, and continue to visit Atlantic News regularly. Dartmouth resident Joyce Lambkin, who’s been going to the shop for over two decades, continues to come in at least every two weeks. “They put away the magazines I usually get and if there’s something they think I’m interested in, they save it for me,” says Lambkin. “Anything you’re interested in, they have it. And if they don’t have it, they’ll try and get it in, that’s for sure. They’re such warm people and Michele is just a sweetheart.”
There’s also Ann that comes in every single morning to buy a muffin and Mr. Lamont who comes in several times a day to say “hello.” Another regular calls Atlantic News her “little oasis” and she loves taking her time to browse the magazine racks. Another calls it “his escape.”
“I think that’s been one of the most satisfying parts of being here,” says Gerard. “We truly are a part of people’s lives.”