Bolen Books: Victoria, BC Canada

A bookstore and more!
1 October 2019

It’s been an incredible 44 years for the family owned and operated Bolen Books store.  This amazing bookstore is based in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia on the wonderful west coast of Canada. In fact, it’s on an island!  And let’s just say if you were on the S.S. Minnow you’d be glad that your “three hour tour” gone wrong landed you in Victoria!  From the Schwartz Bay Ferry Terminal, you’re just a 43 minute drive to Hillside Mall, and from the cruise ship ports, it’s a quick 10 minutes. Either way, it’s worth the excursion whether you’re from Victoria or just visiting.

Map of Bolen Books location relative to Swartz Bay Ferry and Ogden Point Terminal.

Bolen Books is in a great location at Hillside Shopping Centre, which is a very family friendly residential area.  It’s also surrounded by the Camosun College Lansdown Campus, which serves 19,000 learners a year, and the University of Victoria, which serves nearly 22,000 students.  Between the young students and the retired readers, Victoria bookstores are thriving and VicNews surmised that it was due to education.  According to Statistics Canada, the national average for people with university degrees, certificates or diplomas at or above the bachelor level is 28.5%, while in Victoria, BC that number tops an impressive 42%! Perhaps that is why in this digital age, the city of Victoria still has dozens of successful independent and chain bookstores selling new and used books. And perhaps a matter of opinion, but in terms of gift giving, a book one can touch, turn, and smell, is much more personable than a characterless downloadable link.

Bolen Books storefront facing Hillside road that enters directly into their store from outside the mall (1 of 3 entrances).

You can enter the store directly from the parking lot facing Hillside Road without entering the actual mall or enter from two other locations inside the mall, one of which is by the food court. The parking lot wraps around the entire mall and there’s even an upstairs parking lot.  But even with all this parking it can be insane at Christmas time, so start shopping now - we already saw some Christmas goodies at Bolen Books!

Christmas cloths and spoons at Bolen Books
A few Christmas cleaning cloths and Krumbs Kitchen spoons – great gift ideas!

For 25 years, Black Press Media has been publishing a “Best of the City” awards voted on by tens of thousands of residents for everything from shopping to sports and recreation.  In 2019, residents voted Bolen Books as the #1 Best Bookstore for New Books, an honour familiar to them in other years. 

We’re sure Bolen Books #1 win could be attributed to their excellent customer service. There are 30+ happy helpers staffed at this independent bookstore and each one is ready to help you find that perfect book, toy, board game, jigsaw puzzle, coffee mug, book light, book mark, kitchen gadget, greeting card, magazine, plushy, wrapping paper, calendar, reading glasses, journal or whatever you can’t imagine because they have something unique for everyone! Yes, indeed, Bolen Books is a bookstore, and more!

Bolen Books register and floor displays.
Hmm… where do those footprints go from the front entrance till? You’ll have to visit to find out!

The place is always full of life with people wandering the various sections of books, magazines, games and gifts – and you can’t miss their huge jigsaw puzzle wall stocked with lots of great brands, including Cobble Hill! 

Bolen Books puzzle wall with high quality brands like Cobble Hill and Ravensburger .
This impressive puzzle wall is full of high quality brands!

Between this impressive wall and the rows of bookshelves, you’ll find many display tables full of games, puzzles, and other goodies.  You could spend hours in these sections alone and you wouldn’t even be a third of the way through the store. The games on the table are nicely organized by theme like Family, Classic, and Adults, so you can easily find something for everyone.

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Tables full of popular games like Scattergories and Pickles to Penguins! Think game night and gift ideas!

This huge store is sprinkled with seating areas throughout so you can sit while you wait for others to finish perusing the aisles or relax before you take your second tour of this amazing store! 

Bolen Books various seating areas.
Seating areas in cozy nooks throughout the store.

If you’re looking to take something entertaining home, they sell a lot of games and they even have game demos that give you hands on experience before buying. If you’re craving a new book, be sure to look for their "Staff Pick” stickers, these are always a great choice!  If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed with all the options, you may want to consider buying one of their “hot items”, the NeeDoh stress ball.  It’s known as the groovy glob of gratifying goo that always springs back to its original shape, even after being squeezed and smooshed - and it’s available in different colours and styles!

NeeDoh Display at Bolen Books.
1. Purchased a couple of cute gifts for a birthday.  2. NeeDoh display at mall entrance area.

The front counters are always stocked with fun trinkets and impulse items that make for great gifts.  Another Bolen Book’s hot item, since 2014, is Jude’s Miracle Cloth – a microfiber cleaning cloth that strategically lifts and traps dirt and moisture.  It makes for no hassle, streak free, spot free, and lint free cleaning without chemicals. And apparently, the University of California-Davis Hospital determined that conventional cleaning materials only reduce bacteria by 30%, whereas microfiber could reduce the number of bacteria by 99%. No wonder it’s so popular!

Bolen Books food court entrance with Jude's Miracle Cloth and Nee Doh hot items display.
Nee Doh and Jude’s Miracle Cloth are two HOT items at Bolen Books (food court entrance shown).

If you’re shopping here to find a gift for someone special and you just can’t decide, be assured that you can purchase a gift certificate in any denomination.  And if you’re a frequent shopper at Bolen Books, then you may be interested to learn that they have a physical lifetime discount card available for $50 that will save you 10% off every purchase! These have been sold in limited quantities over the years – and now you know!  Just visit a friendly staff member at one of the three tills located at each entrance of the store.

Bolen Books gift wrapping and card section
Tons of gift wrap, gift bags and greeting cards for all occasions.

Bolen Books is fortunate in that it compares in size to large chain bookstores, while being independently owned, so they have that freedom and roominess to hold lots of free events for the community.  They also rent out to folks who need a space to host their own events for workshops or meetings.  We can only imagine how stimulating, creative, and inspiring it would be to host a meeting in this place! It’s incredible the number of diverse guests who have graced this store including Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, comedy legend John Cleese, environmental activist David Suzuki, award winning author Ami McKay, Geddy Lee of RUSH, and hundreds more! Be sure to check out their events page so you don’t miss a beat!

Chris Hatfield signing copies of his debut book in 2013. (Photo: Bolen Books website)
Chris Hatfield signing copies of his debut book in 2013. (Photo: Bolen Books website)

In 2018, Bolen Books hosted their first jigsaw puzzle competition in the mall with prizes.  The event was a huge success and Bolen Books will continue holding this event at least once a year.  Winning teams get their team name engraved on the very sentimental family named trophy, “The Piotta”.  If you’re local, keep an eye out for their bulletin board announcing the competition and other great events!

Cobble Hill Puzzle Company had the honour of being the first puzzle brand to kick-off this local event!
Cobble Hill Puzzle Company had the honour of being the first puzzle brand to kick-off this local event!

One of Bolen Books’ favourite mantras is, “There is something for everyone in our store, but if we don’t have the thing you’re looking for, we can order it!” And from first-hand knowledge, we can tell you that it’s quick, easy, and effortless. This is a place where people care about helping you find what you need whether it’s tangible or an experience.  They’ve already been honoured with the award of “Best Bookstore for New Books”, but if they were ever awarded another title from the city, they’d love it to be for “Best Community Bookstore”.

If you’ve been receiving excellent customer service at Bolen Books since you were a child, please be sure and tell a staff member to pass that message on to the owner, Samantha Bolen or her daughter Madeline, who helps run the store, as this is the best compliment a customer can give them.

Madeline Holmes and Samantha Bolen of Bolen Books.
Madeline (daughter) and Samantha Bolen (owner).

We’re certain it will put a smile on their face and yours! Thanks for shopping local!