Photograph of the front door and main sign of Words Worth Bookstore, located on King Street in Uptown Waterloo, Ontario. There are tables set up beside the main entrance, covered in books, and the windows are filled with books on shelves and balloons celebrating the store's 40th anniversary on May 11th, 2024.


Words Worth Books celebrated its 40th anniversary on May 11, 2024. Over 250 people visited the store to share memories with current owners, Mandy Brouse and David Worsley, and the store’s original owners, Tricia Siemens and Chuck Erion.   

The independent bookstore has been a staple of Uptown Waterloo since 1985.  

Worsley and Brouse purchased the store from its original owners, Siemens and Erion, in 2011. The duo were employees, with Worsley working at the store since 1999 and Brouse since 2006. Brouse said Erion had spoken with them early on about a succession plan for the business.  

“They had a good succession plan. They didn’t want just to leave the store or stop running it. They were dedicated to having a bookstore in Uptown Waterloo, so they asked us, and we said yes,” she said.  

“Thank goodness they did,” Worsley added.  

The plan initially had a five-year window for Brouse and Worsley to take over the store. A series of life events for Siemens and Erion sped the timeline up. Worsley said they had a short timeframe to arrange finances and negotiate with the store’s vendors.  

“Family happens. Life happens. They hit the gas on that plan, and we had a day and a half to throw some stuff together. We were faxing credit applications to 40 or 50 different distributors. There was a lot of last-minute panic,” he said.  

Brouse had only worked at the store for four years at the time. At first, she thought she was being laid off when she was called into the office to sit down with the store’s owners.   

“I thought it was an incredible opportunity. Maybe that was just the excitement and hopefulness of that age and time, but I felt energized to continue the bookstore in Uptown Waterloo,” Brouse said.  

Words Worth Books has faced many challenges since then. A rent increase in their first year led them to move the store one door over to 95 King St. S. Construction for the ION light rail transit system, and the subsequent discovery of a 200-year-old corduroy road under King St. impacted access to the store for almost three years. The store also weathered the impacts of multiple provincial closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brouse attributed the store’s resilience to the supportive community of customers and community members.  

“Waterloo Region is so supportive of its small business and mom-and-pop businesses. I think people understand that we cannot have [an] Uptown without an independent bookstore,” she said.  

Small bookstores serve as third places—social environments outside home, work or school. Brouse said she sees this in action every day at the store.  

“It just happens naturally. People will come in, and they’ll be speaking with our staff and just mention, ‘Oh, I read this book. What have you been reading?’ People like spending an hour or two here and enjoying the space,” she said.  

Worsley added that people’s connections with books and other readers are organic and genuine. He said he continues to see that with each new generation of readers.  

“Joan Didion has had a TikTok revival. Every day, we get kids in here, and they’re yammering excitedly about Joan Didion. It’s the weirdest thing in the world. She’s been dead for ten years, and kids who are three generations out are talking about The White Album, published in 1978. Books are going to be okay,” he said.  

As Words Worth Books begins its next 40 years, Brouse said she and Worsley are already thinking about their own and the bookstore’s future.  

“When Dave and I start succession planning for this place, we are thinking about how to keep a bookstore in Uptown Waterloo. It’s bigger than us. We’ve always seen ourselves as stewards of it, but a lot of that stewardship comes from the community itself, and I think, honestly, that is the secret sauce to our success,” she said.