Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Indigo says fight not over for iconic World’s Biggest Bookstore

Worlds Biggest Book store employee Shelley Ashbury stocks newly printed Canadian books in Toronto, Sept. 18, 1997.


The story of the World's Biggest Bookstore is far from over.

The lease for the property, located near Yonge St. and Dundas St. West, is set to expire Dec. 31, 2013, and a report in the Toronto Star indicates that the leasing agent is looking for a new retail tenant. However, Indigo Books, the current lessee and owner of the business, told the Globe it is set to fight for the retail space, which it sees as unique in its chain.

"It's a one-off store," said Drew McGowen, Indigo's vice president of real estate and development. "I realize it isn't literally the world's biggest, but you know what, it's the biggest for us. It is an absolute icon."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. McGowen said the annual lease costs the company roughly $1.5 million, or $24 per square foot, an expense that he said has been relatively stable over the past years.

The main characters in the story of the World's Biggest Bookstore are well known to Canadians. The store was started in 1980 by Jack Cole, who, along with his brother Carl, founded the Coles franchises that are ubiquitous in malls across Canada and the U.S.

The Toronto landmark, with its garish fluorescent lights and warehouse atmosphere, was later acquired by Indigo, the largest book retailer in the country.

The property is now managed by CBRE on behalf of owner David Cole. Neither CBRE or David Cole could be reached for comment.

Mr. McGowen said he realized it is an older store and not one that could simply be recreated, adding that it is three times the size of Indigo's average bookstores and the largest in the chain.

"What's going to tell the tale is whether we can do a deal with the landlord or not," said Mr. McGowen, who explained they were looking for a "mutually beneficial deal for both parties."

Negotiations over the lease are scheduled for next week, but Mr. McGowen wanted to stress that there were still another 18 months before the current lease expires.

Story continues below advertisement

"It's business as usual for us," he said, adding it's premature to think a deal won't be reached. "Like every single lease we have as it comes up for expiry, we do our due diligence... That's what we're doing here."

As Mr. McGowen noted, the 64,000 square foot store is not the largest book retailer in the world.

If you look under "G" and crack the spine of a Guinness Book of World Records, you'll see that title currently goes to a 154,250 square foot Barnes & Noble located on New York City's prestigious Fifth Ave.

According to a 2011 Colliers International ranking, lease costs on Fifth Ave. were $2,150 (U.S.) a square foot, the world's priciest. In comparison, Toronto and Canada's most expensive rate was in the Bloor Street area with prices of $291.66 a square foot coming in as the world's 37th most expensive retail leasing market.

For downtown bookworms, rumours that the World's Biggest Bookstore could close hits hard. Earlier this year, rising rents and high property taxes forced Toronto's oldest independent bookstore, The Book Mark, to shut its doors.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles as we switch to a new provider. We are behind schedule, but we are still working hard to bring you a new commenting system as soon as possible. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to