Turtle Creek Books is now located online.
Denise Choppin has an inexplicable passion for books. “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading,” she says. “It makes as much sense to me as breathing.” This love affair began in earnest when Choppin stole her first book as a 10-year-old, lifting The Book of Myths off her grandparents’ bookshelf. She soon found herself transported to an enchanted world of heroes, gods and goddesses, and has been spellbound ever since. Born into a family that has been in the book business since the 1600’s, some would argue that this insatiable infatuation was programmed in her genes.
Choppin owned one of the few independent bookstores— a near extinct breed—in Mississauga. Its collection of approximately 150,000 rare, used and out of print books would drive any book lover to euphoria. In an area like Port Credit which has very few retail stores, walk-in customers, people from the neighbourhood, and out-of-towners stumbled upon this place of discovery.
Choppin had an early start in the book trade. As a five-year-old, she was cataloging her own small collection using markings like “R153” to indicate shelf locations. “A good book is like a party guest you want to know more about and a bad book is like a guest you never want to invite over again,” she says. Before the lease for her store ran out in December 2012, it was not only a home for books, but also for the people who shared this common zeal. Now, the Turtle Creek Books website is a digital bookstore. It has detailed descriptions of books, book reviews, and attempts to create a connection with visitors.
Decades ago people would save up a week’s pay to buy a book. With books available for as low as $5 at drugstores today, Choppin believes the commercial value of books has diminished. Reading and owning this business are what she calls her happy compulsions. “Prior to bookselling I had a corporate job and I wouldn’t say it was soul-crushing, but it merely paid the bills. I wanted to do something that feeds the soul and my family.” As someone who has given away hundreds of books simply because she thinks people need to read, she identifies an emotional bond between readers and the stories.
Though she no longer has a bookstore with four walls and a door, Choppin still feels she’s providing a personal service to all her customers. She wants to bridge the gap between the experiences of buying a book online and at a brick-and-mortar store, which is why she encourages by-appointment meetings when people purchase books from her site. Choppin hopes the joy of small things, like notes scribbled in the margins of a second-hand book and the imprint stories leave behind will keep print alive.