Sunday, August 17, 2008

McNally Robinson, Polo Park

This was my regular retreat during our Winnipeg visit: McNally Robinson's new outlet in Polo Park.

Unlike their competition, that other Canadian Mega-lo-Bookstore, McNR still offers its browsers comfortable seating.

This is the vantage point from the central customer service hub. Various shelves extend out from it, like spokes on a wheel.

The effect for the first-time customer is a little discombobulating, but not unpleasant. Even though I suffer a touch of agoraphobia, I didn't seem to mind getting spatially disoriented by shelves of books. Once I located the exits, I was happily ensconced in my "natural" environment.

Speaking as a former bookstore employee, I suspect the store's design probably looked stunning on paper: staff at the hub have fairly clear sight-lines through most of the store. In reality, there is no one perch where a single staffer has a clear vision of the entire store. Theft is a problem that dogs bookstores especially; I saw several arty "package" books that had been opened and pilfered, a sight that always depresses me. With bookstore profit margins growing slimmer each year, this has got to be of grave concern to management.

That aside, I've got nothing but love for this place, and wish McNR every success. The official McNally Robinson site is here.


paul bowman said...

I kind of like the storefront. Very straightforward. Not too unfriendly but not proposing 'retail hangout,' either -- just being bluntly a big chunk of bookstore across a parking lot.

Whisky Prajer said...

I should have taken some more pictures, because this particular front is exactly that: something of an illusion. First of all, there is no access to the second floor. Secondly, the street-level entrance gives the pedestrian immediate access to the cafe ("Prairie Ink") only; there is a set of stairs leading to the basement where the bookstore proper lies. It's a bit of theme-park tom-foolery, which further charms me.

paul bowman said...

Oho -- that is clever. I saw that there was some sort of cafe setup just through the street-level glass, but assumed the bulk of the space was multi-story book central of some order. I guess that's 'Gotcha.'

Still, as you describe it it couldn't disappoint too much, I'd think, despite the deceptive face.