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A Different Drummer Books Celebrates 50 Years
Posted: Nov 6, 2020

Famed Burlington bookstore celebrates half-century anniversary

Early in 1970, Burlington resident Al Cummings had a dream. He would walk away from his career in advertising and launch a bookstore. Not an ordinary bookstore, but one that attracted and engaged readers, authors and publishers. To underline the store’s unique qualities he called it A Different Drummer Books, drawing inspiration from a passage by Henry David Thoreau about each of us marching to the beat of our own drummer.

Along with co-founder John Richardson, Cummings opened the doors on November 15, 1970 in a small frame house at the corner of Locust and Elgin Streets, later relocating three blocks up Locust to its present location in a distinctive three-storey Edwardian house built in 1905.

Architect Thomas Moore converted the fine old building’s interior into a spacious welcoming environment that continues to enthrall both frequent and first-time visitors. The setting fulfilled Cummings’ vision of a setting suitable for literary events and, from time to time, live music performances. Successful from the beginning, the Drummer drew attention from school boards and educators who viewed the store as a valued component in the learning process.

The store grew under the knowledgeable and responsive management style of its owners over the ensuing years, and soon established itself as a favoured destination for appearances by well-known Canadian and international authors. for This role grew dramatically in 1972 with the launch of its Author Breakfast Series. Currently held at Burlingon’s Royal Botanical Gardens, the event attracts audiences of up to three hundred for readings and discussions by noted writers.

Economic shifts and seismic changes in retailing over the years have strained the resources of booksellers everywhere. Yet A Different Drummer Books managed to thrive by adapting to new demands, new competitors, and new expectations. The most recent example includes providing a full range of services under current Covid-19 guidelines, observing all safety protocols, providing free delivery throughout the Burlington area, and supporting authors and publishers by moving events online.

In bookselling, a record of fifty unbroken years is almost unheard of. For A Different Drummer Books, the years stand as a tribute to the clarity of its original vision and the enthusiastic response and loyalty of its customers. The much-loved store, where many of its visitors represent a third generation of customers, continues moving forward in a spirit of optimism and gratitude, determined to achieve even greater success over many more years ahead.


Ian Elliot. (905) 639-0925


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