If you live in North Durham and are ever in the market for a book, or simply some information about an author, a title or a subject, the go-to person is Bill Minors, owner of Books Galore in Port Perry.
Celebrating his 25th anniversary as proprietor of the Scugog landmark, his life has revolved around the book business for most of his working career.
Bill was born in Paisley, Scotland and grew up near Edinburg. His only sibling, his sister, still lives in the capital city of Scotland. During his high school years, Bill worked in a large department store, looking after everything from cheese to toys. “You haven’t experienced kids, until you’ve worked in a toy department at Christmas time,” Bill said, jokingly.
He began his working career as a teller, at Clydesdale Bank of Scotland. One day, he noticed an ad in the local paper, placed by CIBC, looking for management trainees, who wanted to relocate in Canada. The prospect of immigrating to another country was appealing, and Bill applied. “You can imagine how surprised I was, when I got the job,” he explained.
Bill was the first of his family to move to Canada. “My mother warned me that Canadians eat flapjacks all the time, but to date I have still not tried one.”
Bill arrived in Toronto and worked for the bank for three years. Living in a flat in the College and Spadina area gave him a quick introduction to Toronto’s multicultural community. One of his flat mates worked for a publisher and told Bill his company was hiring a salesperson. Bill applied for the position and was taken on. “My territory stretched from Yonge Street to Newfoundland,” he said, laughingly.
In 1974 Bill was sitting in a mall, enjoying a coffee, watching the snow falling outside, along with subzero temperatures. “I was so fed up with the weather; I walked into a travel agency in the mall, chatted for a few minutes with the agent, and bought a one way fare to New Zealand, which left two weeks later.”
His experience landed him a position with a large publishing house and he enjoyed the down under climate and people. Stationed in Auckland, Bill covered most of the north island, and generally enjoyed life.
A few years went by and Bill was missing the bustle of Toronto, as well as a friend he had met just prior to his leaving. He came back, re-cultivated his relationship with Kathy Block, and shortly thereafter the couple were married.
Most people do not realize that Bill had developed a niche as a celebrity. Television networks, such as Global and CTV were starting up and Bill applied to be a contestant on several game shows. He did extremely well, as his trivia knowledge, gained from all the reading he did, had given him a well-rounded worldly exposure.
Not only was Bill a contestant on many shows, but he holds the record for having appeared on the most game shows on Canadian Television. “It got to the point where the host [Jim Perry] would introduce himself to the first two contestants, but when it came to me, it was a simple, ‘Hi, Bill’, as he had seen me so many times.”
He had won trips to London and Acapulco, and almost every week parcels with prizes would arrive at his house. Bill explained his daughters; Alison and Heather, would look forward to ‘delivery days’.
Bill remained in the publishing business, working for a legal publisher and later a medical publishing house. One day, while scanning the Quill and Quire magazine, Bill came across an ad for a bookstore in Port Perry, which was for sale.
The book store was Books Galore and More, owned by the Lorish family of Port Perry. “I had often thought of possibly owning a small book store, and this was an opportunity worth pursuing,” Bill explained.
He and Kathy drove to Port Perry (their very first time) to inspect the store and area, and it did not take long to decide to make the business leap. The commute from Scarborough became longer every year, and in 2005 the Minors moved to Port Perry. Kathy, a law clerk for Country Style Donuts, liked the prospect of living in a small town, yet still being close enough to Toronto.
Bill wasted no time becoming involved in the Community. He is a past president of the lawn bowling club and is secretary of the historical society. He served a stint on the board of the Highlands of Durham, Scottish Country Dancers and was the historian for the local Masonic Lodge.
Bill and Kathy love to travel. Their adventures have taken them throughout Europe, the Caribbean and of course numerous jaunts to Scotland. “You can always pick out the Canadians in Edinburg,” Bill explained. “They’re the ones wearing the kilts.”
Even through the transition to E-readers, Books Galore has not only survived, but done well. Bill’s knowledge of books and publishing makes him a resource for anyone looking to broaden their literary knowledge. His store has a vast selection of used books, and he is able to search out any titles you may be looking for.
“We are extremely fortunate to have so many well-known, local authors, including Peter Hvidsten, Paul Arculus, Ted Barris and Lucy Black,” Bill stated. He even included me in his list.
Located at 175 Perry Street, just north of Queen Street, Books Galore is open to serve all your reading needs, and has been for twenty- five years. its success is all because of the man at the helm, Bill Minors.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.