The book business as we know it today started with John Saunders in 1963, as an off shoot of his dad's stationary and office equipment store. Jack Saunders originally started with a photography shop and studio in 1945 after returning from the war.
John started with a small workspace at the back of the store by taking selections of books out to the local schools for them to have a look at and then place orders.
The catalyst to future successes came when John made an arrangement with a few larger publishers in Toronto, to stock quantities of titles, which allowed him to take selections of books into the schools.
John, at that point, was a one-man show doing all of the selling, stock ordering, deliveries, and invoicing, etc. The space was quickly outgrown and staff was hired. In 1966, an old house at 48 Ste. Marie Street was purchased and the book division moved there.
The business continued to grow and the company was moved to 199 Campbell St., which was 7,200 sq. feet. It served as an office and warehouse, then later as an office call center. This location is now closed as of 2013.
In 1970, we were a wholesaler selling library books from many distributors and to schools and public libraries. We had 3 sales people and 7 or 8 people in the office. We were covering counties close to home as well as Northern Ontario, but we continued to go farther and farther a field. We grew to be one of the larger Canadian wholesalers with a presence right across the country. In 1985, after several years of trying, John made the change from wholesaler to exclusive publisher's agent.
The first publisher that we became an agent for was Gareth Stevens, who John met at a book fair in Frankfurt and later made an agreement with. This was a significant deal for both John and Gareth. This was our first agency from which the rest followed and for Gareth he had yet to print his first book. As we continued to grow we caught the attention of other U.S. publishers.
We then signed with Rourke Publishing, Creative Education and Rosen Publishing. At this point it was much easier to acquire new lines. We currently represent over 20 U.S. and Canadian book publishers.
With the addition of all these lines, John decided to start Knowbuddy Resources in 1993. Knowbuddy started out as a direct mail preview company but soon the books were sold by our sales representatives and by telemarketing with the formation of Knowbuddy Marketing.
In 1990, we purchased a grocery store building of 10,000 square feet in Heathcote as a warehouse, which allowed us to expand our telemarketing division, originally headed up by Lynne Doughty. Lynne has been the driving force up until her retirement in 2014. This role has been taken over by Sean Pearson (son) who has worked as an assistant manager in the call centers for several years as well as many other positions throughout the company. He was recently appointed vice president of call center sales. We had outgrown our current warehouse and were unable to take on any new lines until we expanded.
We started telemarketing in Canada in 1988. Through our association with Creative Education and Tom Peterson, we started entering the U.S. market in 1991 that has continued to grow.
In 1988 another major development occurred. We started to computerize our business through the efforts of Gord Kerr working on a part-time basis from Carleton Place. Gord retired a few years ago and this position is now managed by his son, Ian Kerr, and Ian now has an additional support staff of two people.
In 1998, we purchased the current office and warehouse building at 27, 29 Stewart Road. In 2002, we added 5,000 square feet to house a new telemarketing expansion. We have in total at Stewart Road 15,000 square feet of warehouse and 8,000 square feet of offices. In 2003 James Saunders (nephew) started J.Appleseed serving Canadian classrooms with paperbacks geared toward leveled non-fiction reading. James Saunders is now vice President of Marketing for all our direct sales.
Currently, along with, Sean, James, and the other managers who make us tick are Judy Purdy, our General Manager, Dennis Jackel, our Warehouse Manager and Carol Saunders who is our head of promotion and selection.
In 2001, we rented 3,000 square feet of space in Toronto on Martin Grove Road (near the airport) as a showroom.
In 2004, we purchased 80 Sandford Fleming, which is a commercial building with 2,400 square feet office space and 6,400 square feet warehouse space. Currently our warehousing for Canadian telemarketing is done there and the office space is used as a second call center. In total we employ 170 people, approximately 130 are employed in our two call centers.
In 2008 we expanded our publishing program with 300 paperback titles under the Saunders Book Company imprint. The imprint continues to grow each year. In 2010 our electronic presence was expanded by adding website support for all telemarketing divisions. In 2015 we will continue this progression by launching new versions of saundersbook.ca and jappleseed.ca. In addition, new cataloguing software will give us the capability to offer free downloadable MARC records to all of our customers. Several digital products were offered as of September 2011 through Saunders Book Company as we continue to explore the possibilities of this growing market.
In 2014 we started a new and exciting virtual reality product in the U.S., which allows our customers to preview our books digitally, then allows for them to order either a digital, hardcover, or paperback book. We are rolling this out in Canada at this time, Fall 2015.
At Saunders Book Company, we continue to explore the possibilities of innovative and exciting ideas. As John is fond of saying, “if you are not leading the parade the view continues to be the same”.
Of course Saunders is a family company starting with John's Dad Jack and Mother Bessie. It currently includes son Sean Pearson, nephew James Saunders, and wife Carol Saunders. Through the many years many other family members, Laurie Fryer, Shelley Saunders, Debbie Chatwin, Andrea Saunders, and Andrew Pearson have been involved before going on to new challenges. There are 10 grandchildren... so who knows what the future may bring.
Beyond direct family, Saunders has always been run like a big family and hopefully most of the time happy and we hope it remains this way well into the future.
Thank you for reading this and your support and interest in the Saunders Book Company.
— John Saunders, President 2017