SPECIAL COUNTY SECTION COVER STORY – Richard Peddie Turns The Page To Open Independent Bookshop As Community Hub In Amherstburg
Almost a decade removed from overseeing a $1.5 billion sporting behemoth, Amherstburg’s Richard Peddie is now a small business owner with a new bookshop in the heart of small town Ontario.
The former President and Chief Executive Officer of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), which oversaw operations of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC, Toronto Marlies, Scotiabank Place, BMO Field, Ricoh Coliseum, two hotels, six restaurants and three television channels, Peddie is now looking forward to operating the River Bookshop in Amherstburg.
“I believe small towns and communities deserve great libraries and great bookshops,” says Peddie. “I’m investing in the community and if it happens to cost me a bit of money that’s fine.”
The shop was scheduled to open in mid-June after renovations began in March, but that had to be pushed back by two months because of COVID-19, explains Peddie.
The building at 67 Richmond Street dates back to 1885 and has housed a drug store, a clothing store and a number of lunch places over the years. The exterior is being restored to its original glory, but the interior is getting a complete facelift with the exception of bricks taken from a former chimney, which are being used for a fireplace.
Fortis Construction Group Inc., 3070 Jefferson Boulevard in Windsor is the general contractor in charge of the project. This unique building is getting some well needed TLC while making it look “Victorian new and now”.
Among the many renovations include: the company’s skilled carpenters have completely gutted the interior of the building down to the bare bones; a stucco cornice is added over the front of the building; a muralist is completing artwork to the east side of the building with quotes from famous authors; and there is all new electrical, plumbing, HVAC, windows, doors and flooring.
However, despite Amazon filling the role of the elephant in every retailer’s living room, Peddie truly feels independent bookshops are making a comeback because consumers are interested in a personal touch. And with many people vowing to support local in the aftermath of COVID-19, his investment seems to be timed perfectly.“Independent bookshops are making a comeback in the U.S. and while it’s taking a little longer in Canada, I think it will happen,” he believes. “Our advantage over many small bookshops is that we own the building so we’re not beholden to any landlords.”
Beyond being a champion for small businesses, Peddie has been active at the University of Windsor for more than 20 years and has received numerous awards and citations from his alma mater.
In 2012, the university and MLSE established the “Richard Peddie Leadership Initiative,” which is aimed at projects that will assess and develop leadership potential in students as well as across the wider community. And while this year’s program was cancelled because of the pandemic, Peddie is still enthusiastic about its future.
“It is one of the largest leadership symposiums in southern Ontario and our intent is to bring it back next year,” Peddie comments.
Peddie is also heavily involved in a business case competition by the Odette School of Business, scheduled for January, which brings in teams from across Ontario to compete in a pre-set competition.
Along with his wife Colleen, the couple live on Boblo Island and as a proud supporter of his hometown, Peddie is President of the Amherstburg Community Foundation, which, according to its mission statement, seeks to make Amherstburg the best small town in Ontario to live, to visit and to enjoy, as judged by its economy, quality of life, environment and inclusiveness.
“It was established over a decade ago and had largely gone dormant in recent years,” explains Peddie who was asked to take over the foundation by Town of Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo about a year ago. “We put together a Board of Directors made up of community supporters and our first year of fundraising went extremely well.”
The foundation raised $240,000, which will be distributed among 14 local organizations. For further details and to see a list of their “Community Builders” (leaders who step up and declare they believe in Amherstburg and donate to help build a better town) please refer to: AmherstburgFoundation.org.