Lily Kwiecien often goes to Atlantic News to buy magazines. Her love for hard copy magazines can be attributed to her father, who frequently bought them for her as a child.
The shop is “very much a pillar of our community, I’ve grown up in Halifax my whole life and it’s kind of an iconic building,” Kwiecien said.
Atlantic News, at the corner of Queen Street and Morris Street in downtown Halifax, is celebrating 50 years in business. Although a lot has changed over the past 50 years, much remains the same.
“The reason that people come here is exactly what it was 50 years ago,” said Michele Gerard.
Michele and her husband Stephen Gerard have been the shop’s owners for the past 30 years.
The past 50 years
When the shop first opened, it sold a variety of magazines, newspapers and convenience goods. Gerard says adapting to what consumers are looking for has made them successful, so they added books, puzzles and colouring books to the shelves.
Originally, she said, newspapers were flown into the province, picked up at the airport and brought to the store. Eventually, the news outlets stopped shipping them.
The owners knew some people still wanted hard-copy sources of news, so about 10 years ago they purchased an in-store printing press.
“Suddenly I could have a Wall Street Journal ready at eight o’clock in the morning, whereas before we would have to wait for a plane,” Gerard said. “The advent of the internet, for us, became a driver because people still wanted hard copies,” Gerard said.
Gerard believes that customer service has contributed to the shop’s success.
Friendly and familiar faces
Atlantic News has about 300 to 400 customers a day. Gerard says the staff tries to get to know people.
“Everybody that walks in here has a story to tell … and we do our best to take care of them,” Gerard said.
“I still like to go to Atlantic News because I feel like I’m supporting a local business,” Kwiecien said.
She said ever since the introduction of Bill C-18, which restricts people from accessing news from Meta platforms such as Instagram or Facebook, she has become more reliant on hard copies of magazines.
Gerard believes the community-minded spirit of Atlantic News has helped keep the place alive.
Newsstands that lasted the longest in Halifax were independent, small businesses, Gerard said.
“A lot of it is about customer service and I think that’s one reason why we will be here for years to come.”
The future of Atlantic News
“I truly believe that print, in particular, will always be of value to people,” Gerard said.
When people go into a bookstore or a newsstand, Gerard said, consumers can make their own choices about what to read. But when you are using cellphones or computers, algorithms routinely control your feed. She says an additional value of print is that people are not forced to look at ads.
“If you put it down, it doesn’t go anywhere. I don’t need batteries, I don’t need the internet, I don’t need power,” Gerard said.
After 30 years, the couple is ready to pass the beloved business onto someone else who is willing to value the space as much as them. They are unsure of when they will officially hand over the business, but they have a promising buyer.
“I hope it’s around for another 50 years,” Gerard said.
About the author
Hope Edmond is a master's of journalism student from Enfield, Nova Scotia. She enjoys sharing the stories of others.