Magazines are the only offerings from a store called Issues

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Magazines are the only offerings from a store called Issues | The star

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Nicola Hamilton, owner of Issues, is also a magazine art director.Nicola Hamilton, owner of Issues, is also a magazine art director.

Issues, owned and operated by Nicola Hamilton, only sells periodicals

Beneath a frilly awning on Dundas West is a brand new shop called Issues, where a clean and organized assortment of magazines sit neatly on wall shelves painted in buttery yellow and dove gray. Walking inside is a borderline disorienting experience – unlike Indigo and other bookstores which have seemingly allocated half their floor space to novelty socks, polyester blankets and seasonal hot chocolate mixes, the only items available for sale at Issues are magazines.

And the variety is staggering. Among the approximately 130 titles on offer are magazines that look like pamphlets, magazines that look like table books, magazines that come in old record sleeves, and magazines with fuzzy textured covers. There is Failed States, “a journal of peripatetic geographies,” and Extra Extra, devoted to “urban erotic encounters.” If you can conceive of interest in any niche, Issues probably has a magazine dedicated to it. Newsstand classics like The Walrus are present but ultimately outnumbered by cult titles like Fantastic Man and Numéro.

As more high-profile magazines go out of print, low-frequency niche titles fill the shelves.

It takes unwavering optimism to open a dedicated print-only store in 2022. Between constant publishing industry mergers, layoffs, and dwindling viewership — not to mention the ascendancy of e-commerce on physical retail – it’s never been easier to assume that magazines are living their last days in palliative care. But Issues owner Nicola Hamilton, a 33-year-old who spent a decade in Canadian publishing (she’s currently art director of Best Health and Precedent magazines), scoffs at the idea. “The first mention of ‘print is dead’ is in the original ‘Ghostbusters’ movie, which is almost 40 years old,” she says. “So this is the slowest death ever.”

Growing up in Orono, Ontario. (population: 1,000), Hamilton has relied on magazines like National Geographic to provide a portal to a world beyond its small-town existence. Her mother was a horse photographer whose livelihood depended on selling horse pictures to publications – and Hamilton herself even graced the cover of a few horse magazines in the 90s. was drawn to the collaborative nature of magazines, enjoying following the many moving parts needed for the finished product.

Hamilton stocks around 130 high quality magazines with titles like Fantastic Man and MacGuffin.

She first came up with the idea for Issues after noticing that stores such as magCulture in London, England, and Casa Magazines in New York had established successful businesses selling hard-to-find periodicals. If they could handle it, then why couldn’t a creative city like Toronto support the same? With the closure of bars like the Press Club and the Design Exchange’s hub from the museum to the event space, there was also a dearth of spaces where magazine junkies could come to show off and be themselves. (Presse Internationale, with two locations in town, stocks foreign newspapers as well as magazines, and offers snacks and passport photos, for a more old-school convenience store vibe.)

Armed with a grant for entrepreneurs under 40 from Futurpreneur Canada and some of his own savings, Hamilton rented the space on Dundas West, near Dufferin, and began renovating the old flower shop in a cheerful and colorful space. Rachelle LeBlanc of Company Company Projects mixed custom paint colors for the location, fulfilling Hamilton’s desire to ensure the physical store reflects the same “love, care and attention to detail” that goes into creating the store. ‘a magazine. (She also sells online at issuesmagshop.com)

A view of some of the magazines sold at Issues.

Issues challenges the concept of magazines as ephemeral objects. Rather than disposable items to be browsed at the doctor’s office and then relegated to the recycling bin, magazines are, according to Hamilton, collectibles to be kept and treasured long into the future. Part of that is necessity: the most affordable title on offer is Bon Appetit at $6.99; the most extravagant is Inque, an annual literary magazine, at $110.

“Indie publishing has always existed to make people feel seen and to tell stories that aren’t told,” she says. The future of magazines, Hamilton argues, is moving away from glossy commercial titles owned by conglomerates and toward independent publications with high production value and small but devout audiences. A total of 122 new print magazines were launched in the United States in 2021, all focused on niches with low publication frequency, according to data collected by Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi School of Science. Journalism and New Media.

Nicola Hamilton, a magazine art director, wanted a place to hold high-end quality magazines.

While Hamilton admits trying to make money from the magazines is “a great experience” – she continues her artistic direction commitments while running the store – so far the bet is paying off. Issues fosters a spirit of discovery, inviting customers to browse the shelves – the diametric opposite of a drug store, where employees often frown if you linger too long on the magazine racks. In its first days of operation, the store had already sold a few high-demand titles, including Apartamento, showcasing the interiors of designer homes, and MacGuffin, which focused on unusual design and craftsmanship. Neighbors keep stopping by to say they think this store is just what the town needs.

With Issues, Hamilton has managed to create a friendly and inviting space that sells what might be the most valuable resource of all: space to dream. In an industry virtually devoid of that kind of optimism, it is sorely needed. “Everyone (in publishing) is being asked to do more with less all the time,” she says. “I don’t know why nobody blows it up and tries to do it completely differently.”

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