During its 45 years in business, the Wee Book Inn has been a mainstay for Edmonton readers. Carey Luxford currently co-owns the three store locations, but his late father, Darwin Luxford, opened the original establishment on Whyte Avenue.
Darwin was well known in his community. Even after he passed away in 2014, Darwin was so well liked that the occasional customer would come in and tell stories about him, explains Ian, the current store manager of the Wee Book Inn downtown.
“He knew a lot of people, and he was good with doing business,” Ian says. “There were even stories about him on CBC and so on, and a lot of people sent memorials to the funeral.”
Darwin also started the tradition of always having at least one cat living in the stores. According to Ian, bookstores would traditionally keep a cat to ward off any mice that could eat the paper, but Wee Book Inn has never had a problem with rodents. Darwin simply liked the idea of having a cat living among the books and vinyl, so he brought one into his first store. Customers were so interested in the cat that it became a tradition that every store location would always have a cat or two. In fact, some customers come just to see Fergie, the downtown store’s current pet.
“The cat in the window is a very compelling image for people,” says Ian.
Of course, not everyone visits the store just for the cats. Wee Book Inn attracts a wide variety of customers. The business is known for its great service and unique experience. Tourists and people passing through the city will often stop at the bookstore upon someone’s recommendation.
More often, someone will refer to Wee Book Inn as a source of tradition. Throughout the years that the store has been in business, employees have seen three generations pass through it. Children that were brought through the doors by their parents will grow up and eventually take their own children in to buy or trade books. Canadian actor Nathan Fillion was among these frequent customers, referencing the business in a preface to Serenity: Those Left Behind, a graphic novel based on the film adaptation of the television show Firefly. Fillion and his family would routinely visit the store to trade and buy used comic books.
“It was a trading post for old books, and more importantly, comics,” Fillion writes in the preface. “My dad would have us bring all the comics we could bear to part with, and we would watch as the clerk would shuffle through them, calculating their value.”
Even since the business was passed down to Darwin’s son, Carey, there has been no indication that the traditions will change. The stores will continue to be known for their outstanding service and their resident cats, and, with luck, the Wee Book Inn will remain in Edmonton for at least another 45 years.
Photo by Casey Pollon.