Skeena Voices: Keeping Terrace Reading for more than 30 years

Anna Beddie reflects on her experience owning Misty River Books

Anna Beddie got more then she bargained for 32 years ago when husband Ken and Terrace Public Library head librarian Ed Curell opened Misty River Books in a 2,100 square foot location beside the Scotibank.

The Beddies remortgaged their house and hired a manager and bookkeeper to run the store.

Two years in the bank came calling and when Curell decided not to invest further, the Beddies found themselves at a crossroads.

“We had no idea we were so far back, the community supported us unbelievably,” said Anna Beddie.

Anna was born and raised in Terrace; at the time she was working at a wholesale company and dreamt of becoming a physical education teacher.

The couple thought her connections could be an asset to the store so Beddie quit her job to work full time at Misty River Books.

Over the years the Beddies have remortaged their home four times and down-sized the store.

“Knowing what I know now, there’s just no way we should have made it, could have made it,” said Beddie.

Back then, Beddie ordered books from publishers using paper catalogues or a microfiche. It would take eight to 10 weeks to get product in stock.

Compared to the early years of the store, editing, publishing and the appetite for books has grown. Most of the buying process is now online.

Beddie used to take the old paper catalogues to a quiet place and relax, ordering based on what she thought her customers would want to read. She said that thinking of other people used to be easier before she was online and looking at a screen all the time.

“You’ve got to know which authors you think you customers are going to be excited about as well, My husband equates it to buying groceries for another family, so do they like chocolate milk, skim milk, almond milk so yeah it’s a crap shoot, and there is so much that gets published now.”

Also, publishers would reserve full pages in the paper catalogues for books that that they were excited about, but on the online system each book has the same space, which makes it harder to tell which books the publishers expect to be hits.

“As we have invested in the store I’ve been a bit more cavalier about my buying so I don’t necessarily buy by budget where a few of my friends do, I’m going to buy on impulse, and I don’t buy crazy,” she said.

Selling books is far from the end of the story for Anna Beddie and Misty River. Customers can also buy eggs.

That started when a former Terrace teacher asked if she could leave some eggs at the store for someone to pick up. Then a Rosswood farmer needed a place to offload eggs in the winter because the farmers market was closed. Beddie took her son’s beer fridge from university and a customer gave the store another fridge.

“We now have a chicken in the window so that when we have eggs in the fridge people know to look for the chicken in the window,” said Beddie.

Misty River Books sold 227 dozen eggs in July 2019, their biggest month yet. In return, farmers give pork chops, chickens and other gifts to the store and staff draw from a hat to decide who takes what home.

The book store throws tea parties and collaborates with the Terrace Public Library to host author readings. It also sells tickets to local events.

“I was really really involved in the community outside of the store, coaching and volunteering and that kind of thing, but things happen and you need to be in the store more, so we do a lot of ticket sales for community events and we do it for free and that’s what I call my community service,” Beddie said.

They used to collect money in envelopes, but now the ticket sales are tied into the store’s point of sale system. It adds quite a bit of work, but Beddie said it feels important and brings some exposure to the store. She recalled a story about a man that came to buy tickets to a monster truck show.

“I can remember one guy coming in and he said ‘can you take a picture of me’ and I said ‘sure.’”

“My mother will never believe I am in a bookstore,” the man replied.

Building a relationship with customers is Beddie’s favourite part about her job. Her and her staff’s customer service and work in the community has resulted in several awards. Anna Beddie is an Order of Terrace recipient.

Misty River Books won Terrace Chamber of Commerce Retailer of the Year in 2014 and has also won Company of the Year and Community Contributor to the Arts.

“Very honoured and humbled but there are so many other people out there that work just as hard as I do to keep their businesses going and do great customer service and make a difference in our community, it really humbles me and the staff too,” said Beddie.

Her relationship with her customers does not end when they walk out the door – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Misty River stayed open, at first only allowing one customer in the store.

“I want to look after my customers, I want to make sure they are happy and they are okay, it’s not about buying books, it’s about them,” Beddie said.

“That’s the biggest worry is that we are not seeing everybody that we normally would see to make sure they are okay so that’s been hard.”

Sometimes Beddie calls customers to check in. “There are some people that we worry about and go looking for because they are part of our life, whether they come in every day or every week.”

She does not want to seem like she is prying, and she understands why many are choosing not to visit the store.

Beddie continues to offer home deliveries, she said are fun because she is discovering parts of Terrace she did not know about, even as a local.

As B.C. begins to lift COVID-19 restrictions, Beddie said she wouldn’t be where she is today without her flexible and hard working staff.

She is also grateful for her customers and the community for their support during such a trying time.

“I’m just thankful they thought of me instead of going to Amazon or to Chapters because they can and they could, it helps me feel hopeful we’ll be okay.”

Although it’s been 32 years since Misty River opened, Beddie still feels so much joy when new books come in and when customers walk away happy.

Anna plans to retire eventually, and in recent years the Beddie’s have flirted with selling the store twice.

“I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t. I had such anxiety, like I don’t know, I think I’ll have to die here,” she laughed.

READ MORE: Skeena Voices: Finding peace and purpose in Terrace


@BenBogstie
ben.bogstie@terracestandard.com

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