Building a book haven in Nelson, B.C.

The owner of Notably, a Book Lover’s Emporium reflects on a dream realized

by Danielle Brost
Workers at Notably a book lovers emporium

Samara Nicoll (left) and her staff member Gabby are here to welcome book lovers. — Photo courtesy Samara Nicoll

Nelson has a sanctuary for bookworms known as Notably, A Book Lover's Emporium. Samara Nicoll has owned this charming independent bookstore for nearly three years, bringing smiles to visitors and locals who pop in for a browse. Nicoll’s journey from managing Otter Books to opening her own store is a story of determination, community, and a lifelong dream fulfilled. Notably isn’t just a bookstore; it’s a hub for personalized recommendations, events, and eco-friendly merchandise, all curated to create a welcoming and inclusive space for everyone. Nicoll was happy to chat with us and give us a window into her world.

What did you do before starting Notably, A Book Lover's Emporium, and what inspired you to open the business?

I was lucky enough to work at Otter Books (a general indie bookstore also in Nelson) for 14 years—8 of which I was the manager, so I've been in the bookselling world for a good chunk of my adult life. I left Otters on great terms, and took the leap of opening my own little store. I've wanted to run my own bookstore since I was 17 and the timing (despite COVID times) seemed right. I worked really hard to curate a store that complimented rather than competed with the other businesses downtown.

How long have you been in business, and are there any co-owners?

I'm just about to celebrate 3 years in June, and it's just me (and my awesome staff!)

What do you love most about doing business in Nelson?

We have such a wonderful array of small businesses in Nelson which makes for a wonderful shopping experience to those visiting, and also us locals. I appreciate that I can get advice from my fellow small business owners, and that we all do our best to support each other. Our downtown is not very big, but it's vibrant.

Do you cross-promote or collaborate with any other businesses/organizations?

Yes, but I'd love to do more. I'm next door to Berkana, a wonderful yarn store and we've talked about a night of knitting and storytelling. I often sell books for our public library at author events there.

What makes Notably different from other bookstores?

I think indie bookstores are all inherently a little different. I specialize in mostly fiction, some creative non-fiction (essays, memoirs, poetry, philosophy), graphic novels, and classics—for teens and up (no kids books). And we love making personalised recommendations. Aside from book and author events, we host games nights, free book socials, and letter writing nights. We also have an excellent card selection, and I make an effort to bring in eco-friendly stationery, reusable gift bags, journals, pens, and pencils made of recycled materials, plantable seed cards. 

What has been your biggest surprise since starting this company?

My learning curve when it comes to managing cash flow, haha. Also, how well our fountain pens and inks have sold (I thank my friend Natasha for convincing me to carry Kaweco Pens!)

What are your plans for the future?

To continue having fun and creating community with all the book and stationery lovers near and far!

What do you hope customers experience when they visit Notably?

Delight at all the bookish goodies, but also chill happy vibes. We strive to create a safe and inclusive space where hopefully everyone can feel welcome and see themselves reflected in the books and the merchandise (we carry a lot of lgbtqia2s+ and neurodivergent stickers/pins/books). 

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Our social media content is pretty great. We have a lot of fun and don't take ourselves too seriously. @NotablyBookish on Instagram.

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