otis & clementine’s used books & coffee has made its home in St. Margaret’s Bay for 4 ½ years, but it is still a well-kept secret among Haligonians. Owner Ellen Helmke took over the space where Books Galore lived for 15 years. Ellen felt strongly about working close to home to reduce her driving, and her favorite things to do are to read and thrift shopping. A match made in heaven! After several years as a Fundraising Director for a local non-profit, she did what she never thought she’d do – open her own business right in her own neighborhood. Now she thinks of herself as a ‘book-flipper’, her mission is keeping books out of the landfill.
Helmke strives to keep a well-curated collection of recent books in very good shape, along with a very diverse non-fiction section. They also carry adult coloring books, and the amazing Chameleon pens (chameleonpens.com), only available at otis &clementine’s. She estimates her inventory at 20,000 books. They have expanded their cafe, with French pastries fresh daily from Boulangerie la Vendeenne.
Open at 8am, otis & clementine’s is perfect for morning coffee meetings, or just a latte on the go. There is plenty of seating, both tables and armchairs. They offer a special order service, store credit – bring them your books to see what they need. However, the shop is not able to take textbooks, encyclopedias, or hardcover fiction.
If you don’t have a lot of time to browse, call or email the shop with your budget and the authors / books you’ve enjoyed in the past. Owner Ellen will personally select a stack of books for you to review. Ellen is able to throw in extra books at no extra cost. This works especially well for seniors who don’t have access to a car regularly.
One Thursday night a month (7-8pm), we host a book club which is casual and open to everyone. Call to get the next meeting date and book of the month. Helmke’s part-time helper Diana runs the book club. Di is an avid reader, former teacher, and mother to nine grown children. She is well-traveled and can make excellent recommendations whatever your taste in reading.
A special holiday tradition at otis & clementine’s is the ‘FOR KIDS EYES ONLY’ SHOPPING ZONE’ a special spot behind a curtain for children to personally pick out small gifts for their loved ones. The gifts are vetted by the owner, so hopefully parents and grandparents will get something good!
Youth are welcome to walk to the bookstore from Sir John A. High School after school, or take the school bus from Five Bridges Jr. High. The shop is within a short walk of Tantallon Elementary Schools.
While it might be 20 minutes from Halifax, it truly is a destination for an hour of peace with a hot drink in a beautiful used bookshop, while the kids play and have a snack. The kids section is full of the latest books as well as classics for all ages, from board books to Young Adult. There is also a play area with Playmobil and Lego keep the kids occupied while you browse the stacks.