Reinvention of Wolfville book shop sparks speaker series on women in business

Former Rotary exchange student comes full circle with Mud Creek talk

Wendy Elliott
Published on January 7, 2016

Bookseller Hilary Drummond, left, and Wolfville Rotarian Wendy Donovan  before Drummond’s talk.

©Wendy Elliott

WOLFVILLE - The Mud Creek Rotary Club has organized a fresh new series of business speakers called Entrepreneurs Among Us.

The all-female series, says Wendy Donovan, will explore local opportunities for entrepreneurism.

“This by-invitation series will bring together Rotarians, local businesses, the town and students of Acadia and Horton High School to hear entrepreneurs in our community share the passion that led to creating their business,” she said.

It will explore growth, challenges and opportunities along the way, and the role of the town, she added.

The series was inspired by a talk Ray Ivany gave  at the Rotary district conference, where he challenged Rotarians to “think outside the box” and look for ways to assist in promoting economic development in this area. 

The Mud Creek Rotarians invited Hilary Drummond, co-owner of the Box of Delights, to be their first speaker.

“Hilary’s remarks were both inspiring and thought provoking; so much so that it was decided to create this speakers series... this was our way to bring Ray’s challenge to fruition,” Donovan said. 

Four speakers have been booked for the series. Drummond and Debra Morrison of Il Dolce Far Niente have already made presentations, with Miranda Collins of Inquisitive Toys scheduled to speak in February and Lynda MacDonald of Harvest Gallery set to give a talk in April.

“We're very proud to be launching and sponsoring this series,” Donovan stated. “To be drawing attention to the unique character of Wolfville and what is has to offer as a destination for entrepreneurs.”

Inspired by books

As a teenager, bookseller Hilary Drummond “had already travelled the world and lived as every gender, race, and age – except that I had never left Canada.”

It was Karen Connelly’s book Touch the Dragon, about her experiences as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student in Thailand, that pointed Drummond abroad.

At 16, she spent a year on exchange in rural Thailand and got hooked on travel. Ten months after her return, Drummond signed on as an ordinary seaman on the sailing vessel Picton Castle and began an extraordinary two-year voyage, circumnavigating the globe.

In 2002, she started the study of philosophy at the University of Kings College before becoming an au pair in Italy. Four years later, Drummond took on another exchange at the State University of St. Petersburg in Russia, where she lived with two pensioners who had lived through the Siege of Leningrad.

A friend helped her land a job at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, one of the world’s most famous bookshops. She stayed five years and realized that books were her future.

Seeking to become a better bookseller through education, Drummond took a master’s degree in Book and Digital Media Studies at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Her thesis explored the cultural agency of Canadian booksellers.

Drummond also spent a stint working at Atlantis Books on the Greek island of Santorini. She says the improbable success of that bohemian shop was inspiring and “reminded me that what I love most of all is to be at the till of a bookshop.”

So she has returned to the site of her very first job at the Box of Delights. The store was founded by Hilary Sircom in 1976 and then then sold to Mitzi DeWolfe in 1991.

“So, in 2016, you can thank these two women for 40 years of Main Street bookselling. I am deeply honoured to be part of this lineage,” Drummond said.

With DeWolfe’s support, she said, “we are now in the process of reinventing the Box of Delights based on everything I learned while I was away.”