Homegrown Business: Upstart & Crow Literary Arts Studio

For this edition of our Homegrown Business series, we spoke with Upstart & Crow bookstore’s Ian Gill about the independent bookstore that he co-founded with Zoë Grams.

upstart & crow
Photo credit: Olivia Leigh-Nowak

What is your business called and what does it do?

Upstart & Crow Literary Arts Studio. We are both an independent bookstore and a promoter and creator of literary arts.

What made you want to do this work?

We (co-founders) are both writers and we believe passionately in the power of stories to change the world for the better. Doing this work comes naturally.

What problem did you want to solve with the business?

Well, you can’t have enough independent bookstores. And Granville Island needed a bookstore. But also, Vancouver didn’t have a literary arts centre and we wanted to fix that.

Who are your clientele/demographics?

We get some tourists, obviously, but mostly we’ve drawn a loyal and growing following of people who love how we’e curated our books around important themes and experiences. Our clientele is pretty educated, literate, and urbane.

How does your business make money? How does it work?

We sell books, some art works, stationery, cards, puzzles, and things that go along with the reading experience — candles, chocolates, bath salts and salves. We also host launches and small events.

Ian Gill and Zoë Grams, co-founders, Upstart & Crow Literary Arts Studio - Photo credit: Olivia Leigh-Nowak
Ian Gill and Zoë Grams, co-founders, Upstart & Crow Literary Arts Studio – Photo credit: Olivia Leigh-Nowak

Where in the city can we find your profession?

We are on Railspur Alley, Granville Island.

What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.

Ask them how they choose their stock. The answer should be part philosophical, part practical — and fully enthusiastic and full of passion. Otherwise, why bother?

What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?

Best: Getting new books (it’s like Christmas every day) and displaying them and seeing people’s eyes light up when they find something they want. Worst: trying to find time to eat lunch.

What is your favourite joke about your own profession?

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

Where can we follow you?

Website | Facebook | Instagram | E-mail | Newsletter

PAY IT FORWARD: What is another local business that you love?

Dalbergia Wood + Fine Objects — beautiful handcrafted art made from exotic woods by our neighbour own Railspur Alley, Federico Méndez.