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Q & A with Manifest Bookstore

April 27th is Independent Bookstore Day, and we wanted to highlight an independent bookstore in Ontario. Krystle Dickson is the founder and owner of Manifest Bookstore in Toronto. She opened in August of 2022 and has used it to support local authors. Manifest Bookstore is all about bringing diversity and culture through literature. In this interview, Krystle shared everything there is to know about Manifest Bookstore and what it’s like to run a business.

What made you fall in love with books? 

When I hit my last years of high school and college, I couldn’t put down books by Eric Jerome Dickey. Somebody introduced me to Milk in My Coffee, and I said, “Where has this been all my life!” and from there, I just couldn’t put [books] down. It’s not just the type of romance and stuff like that, I started going everywhere. Mind you, I was still an avid reader as a child, but reading Babysitters Club and Nancy Drew really made me fall in love with books.  

How did you come up with the name Manifest Bookstore? 

The bookstore actually came to me from a dream. I had a dream and I started praying and fasting and sought God for it because I didn’t even want to open a bookstore. So, as I was praying and fasting, I got the name. 

What is the hardest part of running and owning a bookstore? 

Of course, I want to say “financial”, and it is, because I can’t give myself totally to the bookstore. I have to still work a 9-5. So, the hardest part is balancing life while starting a new business. 

On the flip side, what is your favourite part? 

Recommending books. When people walk into the store and they ask, “what can I read?” I get so excited! Sometimes I have pull myself away and apologize because I’ll [start going] “here! And here!” and they’re looking at twenty books by the time I’m done. [It’s something that] a lot of people love, especially when they’re giving gifts.  

What is your go-to recommendation? 

For children, Crowned with Glory, by Dorena Williamson. I keep selling out of that book. But the majority of my go-to recommendations are local Canadian authors. Hands down, if I push a book in my store, 99% of the time, it’s a local author. 

What makes your bookstore different? 

I’ve always said that I want people to remember coming to my store. I want people to feel comfort and warmth when they come in. You’re coming for an experience.  

What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about starting a bookstore? 

Start on your own. I wouldn't recommend anyone to franchise. The thrill of owning your own business is completely different, the control, especially for people of colour. I point this out because we seem to get pushed [to the side] or integrated [with everyone else]. When you own your own business, you can continue to stand out. You don’t have to assimilate. I feel like we assimilate too often, so I would say to any person of colour [who is looking to start a business], stand out. Be your own. 

What is your approach to bringing the community into your bookstore and letting them see what you have to offer? 

I just stay true to who I am. I have people of all cultures and races come in, and if they’re not buying a book, they’re buying an accessory or something. If I go Chinese restaurant, I’m not going to get jerk chicken. Why am I changing what I’m serving to accommodate everyone else? We seem to water down quicker because we want to be accepted and if we keep doing that, we are going to lose ourselves and our identities. 

How do you promote the importance of literacy to the people in your community? 

I try my best. Even in the small things, like sharing posts and opportunities on social media, which is ideal. I always support Black-owned businesses like the Love of Literature Book Club, Knowledge Bookstore, A Different Booklist, and Nile Valley Books to help promote literacy in our community. Since most books cater to girls, I try my best to stock up for little boys because moms often ask, “do you have something for my son?” Even when I had my book fair, it was important for me to include my community in every aspect of the event. The space I rented, the balloon person, the caterer, the vendors, the backdrop person, and the DJ were all from the Black community. I did not step out of the community. However, my community failed to show up, so the question is, “how do I get better?”  

About Manifest Bookstore 

Photo of Krystle Dickson, Manifest Bookstore

Manifest Bookstore is an independently owned African Caribbean Bookstore located in Ontario. We focus on bringing knowledge and diversity to Canadians.  

Manifest Bookstore offers a wide selection of books including children’s literature, modern fiction, true crime, cookbooks, foreign language titles and religious books.  

Bringing diversity and culture one book at a time. 


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