Woozles first opened its doors, at 1533 Birmingham Street, on a cloudy, overcastSaturday - October 14, 1978. The response of the Halifax community was overwhelming and the owners recall they had 600 customers the first day!
Woozles is located in what was originally built and occupied as a private home. The initial store space of 600 square feet occupied the drawing room and the dining room (the mantelpieces are still evident) of the old house.
Former bedrooms upstairs have been used to host a variety of workshops for children, families and teachers and other miscellaneous rooms have been used for office and storage space.
Since opening in 1978, Woozles has kept the same address but has undergone two expansions. The first expansion extended the store backwards and added another 400 square feet. The last expansion occurred when Woozles bought the building next door and created an opening between the two buildings inside which added another 500 square feet.
Woozles was founded byAnn Connor BrimerandLiz and Brian Crocker. As well, Woozles was blessed with hiringTrudy Careyas Manager. She started before Woozles opened its doors and she stayed with us for 30 years!
Ann, Liz, Brian and Trudy all had experience in teaching and working with young children and, therefore, shared the vision that Woozles be more than a store...that it be, as its byline says,"a place for and about children". With this vision, Woozles has offered workshops and served as a significant community resource for sharing information about children and supporting activities to enhance reading and family life.
Woozles issued its first newsletter (handwritten and run off on a gestetner machine) within the first month and offered its first workshops within 6 weeks of opening. Over the years, it is estimated that Woozles has providedover 1000 workshopsranging from music and movement for preschoolers and photography for teenagers to how to stay sane and have fun with toddlers and how to make life-size puppets for adults.
Over the years, Woozles has tried a number of other initiatives such as'Woozles on Wheels'(taking books and workshops to outlying communities),'Woozles in a Suitcase'(our attempt at a Tupperware style of presenting products in rural communities),'Woozles Birthday Parties'(having a Victorian Tea Party or a Space Party at the store with relevant games, costumes and treats), and a'Woozles Bookclub'(like Scholastic's one in schools) and'Battle of the Books'.
'Battle of the Books'is now in its 25th year. It is a program in which teams from different elementary and junior high schools test each other's wits about the content and authors of books from set reading lists. This program has stimulated children's reading beyond their natural selections and has provided recognition in schools for students who are enthusiastic readers (a nice alternative to all attention being directed to those who excel in sports). Since Battle of the Books was launched in the mid 80's, it is estimated that it has touchedalmost 2000 readers(not to mention their teachers and parents) and featured over 3000 excellent books.
For both its 20th and 25th birthdays, Woozles created its'Wouldn't it be great if' Grants. We asked people to submit proposals which complete the sentence "Wouldn't it be great if?" by telling us how they would use a $500 grant to improve the lives of children and families. The ideas and spirit of the applications have been heart-warming. For its 30th birthday, Woozles hosted an amazing party with performers, games, cake, and lots of prizes.
Woozles is now in its 33rd year. It is still in the same location (albeit bigger than when it opened) and still committed to the vision of being 'more than a store', being 'a place for and about children'. Brian and Liz Crocker are still owners; sadly Ann Connor Brimer died, much too young, in 1988. Trudy Carey is enjoying retirement after 30 years and her shoes have been ably filled by Suzy MacLean as the new Manager.
Over the years, we have graduated from not even having a cash register for the first eight years to now being fully computerized and able to research and fulfill customers' orders all over the world. And, at age 33 and counting, we know we are theoldest children's bookstore in Canada...and there is only one store which is a year older than we are in the United States.
Woozles has been thrilled to receive industry recognition over the years from theCanadian Booksellers Association, once being selected as'Bookseller of the Year'and twice being selected as'Specialty Bookseller of the Year', the most recent time being in 2010. Woozles also was awarded the Silver Recognition Award from the Hlaifax Chamber of Commerce in 2009.
While these awards are very special, they don't even come close to the delight and pride felt when customers come into the store with young children and tell us that they came to Woozles when they were babies themselves and that it has always been a special place for them!
click the image above for more memories from our dear customers
People's reflections and memories of Woozles are heartwarming - here are 2 of our favourites:
"I like to visit Woozles for a minivacation from the world of the cynical and serious, to a place where love, laughter and learning co-exist in an atmosphere of helpfulness and fun!"
"I was 3000 miles away from my home in Ireland and very, very lost in Halifax when I accidentally discovered Woozles.
I remember stumbling in through the door, soaking wet from the rain that was battering down outside. It took me 5 seconds to realize I had found a magical place, 10 seconds to begin searching through all the books of my childhood, and 2 hours to leave, loaded down with toys and stories for all my friends and family."
Woozles 1533 Birmingham Street Halifax NS B3J 2J6 Canada