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Last Modified: August 28, 2023
Graphic with the messaging, "Bookstore Feature: Wee Book Inn." A photograph of the Wee Book Inn storefront is beside the text.
Wee Book Inn

Guy Lafleur is a famous hockey player first drafted to the Montreal Canadiens. La Fleur, of course, means ‘flower,’ or ‘the flower,’ his anglophonic nickname. And then there’s Fleur, the extremely popular Himalayan feline, eternal guardian of all the wisdom kept shined and dusted on Wee Book Inn’s shelves. She is Lafleur’s namesake.

Framed photo of Guy Lafleur
Photograph of Guy Lafleur.

In fact, by coincidence or not, Guy Lafleur was drafted to the Canadiens the same year Wee Book Inn opened: 1971. The late Darwin Luxford, founder of the bookstore, considered Guy one of his favourite players. His son, Carey, current Director of Operations at the Wee Book Inn, honours Darwin’s legacy, keeping a photo of Lafleur hanging on the wall behind the register.

Wee Book Inn’s logo is a happier-than-can-be Himalayan cat bread-loafing atop an open book. To have a Himalayan cat is store tradition, as is naming the felines after Canadiens players. The Whyte Ave location — there have been many locations over the years — features forest green carpet on which every path looks well-travelled.

It’s an impressive space. In the centre of the store, books for children encircle a calm, cozy grove beneath a staircase, perfect for parents to take their young ones to flip through their next magical read.

That staircase leads to the second floor, which is replete with vintage sci-fi, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, books on history, religion, art, and much, much more. The second floor also features a stunning display cabinet, sparkling like the gems encased therein. Currently, the case includes the first printing of Marian Engel’s The Bear, a beautiful collection of Daphne Odjig’s paintings, and some lesser-known works by William S. Burroughs.

Near half the retail space on the main floor houses the book-form Wee Book Inn might best be known for: the pocketbook. From New Canadian Library editions to Maeve Binchy, Danielle Steel, Louis L’Amour, and Dick Francis, these classics of another echelon can be reliably found (or requested!) at Wee Book Inn. If you’re lucky, you might even find a pocketbook James Baldwin on their spinning rack.

The ‘wee’ in Wee Book Inn indicates the store’s humble beginnings as not much more than a nook, a sort of long hallway with a basement. Heather Westhaver, manager of the Whyte Ave Wee Book Inn since 2020, has a long association with the bookstore. Before becoming manager, she was assistant manager, and before that, book clerk. She hears from folks all the time who remember browsing through the comics section in the basement of the truly wee Wee Book Inn. “You just dated yourself if you remember that,” she laughs.

Any resident of Edmonton will admit Whyte Ave feels, at times, like a revolving door for businesses. Three shutter here, two open there. Wee Book Inn has stood this test of time, a test which indubitably comes with a record. If walls could talk, right? Heather describes Wee Book Inn as a sentinel of the strip, bearing witness to change all the while changing alongside it. When asked how Wee Book Inn’s relationship to Whyte Ave has shifted over the years, Heather states unequivocally, “Wee Book Inn is Whyte Ave.”

And she has convincing reasons to make that claim. Whyte Ave transforms into a boisterous beast as the sun dips. Heather’s sharp wit leads her to say: “Wee Book Inn is the only space open past a certain hour that does not employ a bouncer.” To her, this means two things. The first is that, ideally, Wee Book Inn is a calm, calming space for anyone needing a sensory break from the noise of the strip. The second result of being open late without a bouncer is that the employees perform many duties outside what one might expect of the typical book clerk. One can only imagine.

For Heather and her staff, this is where the word community comes into play. A local business, a local bookstore, is not purely a transaction between customer and cash register. Relationships are built and bolstered. Holding space on Whyte comes with certain responsibilities and reciprocity.

“Where do the books come from,” asks Heather rhetorically. “They come from members of this community.” More important than its designation as a bookstore, Heather wants Wee Book Inn to continue to be a community hub. “We see the same people, whether it’s once a week, a month, a year, we are that sentinel, watching the Ave grow and change. We are growing and changing with it.”

The bay windows from inside the bookstore, looking out towards the street.
The bay windows from inside the bookstore, looking out towards the street.

And change it has. Edmonton faces the same issues as other Canadian cities: more are struggling now than ever before with homelessness and addiction. Wee Book Inn, on the corner of Whyte and Gateway, has witnessed all of this, too.

That’s why Heather is partnering up with the newly-renovated Mustard Seed on 81st Ave to provide Naloxone kits and training to all of her staff that opt in, ensuring it remains non-obligatory to do so. Just like libraries, bookstores like Wee Book Inn are filling these social support roles to serve the very population in Strathcona that has kept their doors open for so long.

Fleur, the Wee Book Inn cat, scratching their face on a book.
Fleur, the Wee Book Inn cat.

“This bookstore couldn’t exist anywhere else in the world,” says Heather. “It is completely unique and adapted to the Whyte Ave community. These are their books; we just hold onto them for a little while, and then put them back out into the community.”

A recipe like Wee Book Inn’s has taken fifty-two years to perfect. Paradoxically, as Heather remarks, “the recipe is never finished.”

Despite the unpredictability of life, may the milieu and ethos of Wee Book Inn never change, and may Fleur live on forever.


Colby Clair Stolson lies on a rug with a stunned expression on his face. A typewriter rests on his stomach, and books are on the ground beside him.Colby Clair Stolson grew up somewhere in the in-between, in a town called Ponoka. Every day he asks himself, “Who knows if the moon’s/a balloon”? And some of those balloons have been published: in Edmonton’s Glass Buffalo and Funicular Magazine, and in Canada’s (via Ottawa) Touch the Donkey and periodicities.