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Now Open: Famous Last Words is a literary-themed watering hole


A big stack of books behind the bar. An entire back wall of bookshelves, loaded with more books. Book wallpaper behind an electric fireplace, all facing a vintage sofa and chairs. All of the above with a view of the busy Junction intersection of Pacific Ave. and Dundas St. W.

Such is Famous Last Words, a new bar created to be the ultimate book lover’s watering hole, complete with an actual book of book-themed cocktails to order.

Owner Marlene Thorne invented this place to suit her own literary wants. “I’ve always been kind of obsessed with books,” she says. She also loves an interesting cocktail. She worried, at first, she was “creating a place only I would like.” Luckily, it hasn’t gone that way, and she’s already attracted a client base since opening in October.

Thorne, a Newfoundland native, didn’t study literature — which she somewhat regrets. Her mass communications degree led her into marketing positions at large Canadian companies, including General Mills and Novartis.

But a merger led to a layoff in July 2015, and like many who find themselves out of work for the first time since graduation, she began soul searching. Was marketing at a big company her true passion? Not really.

But she had found something she loved in her former jobs. At least a few times a year, she’d find herself organizing a large party or corporate event for work.

“I got pretty good at it,” she recalls. In particular, she loved designing signature cocktails for events.

Friends started asking her to bartend or invent drinks, and she realized her moments behind the bar were some of her happiest.

So she took a week-long bartending class, and discovered she already knew quite a bit about the craft. “It gave me a lot of confidence,” she says.

Meanwhile, the idea for the bar was coming together. The name, Famous Last Words, also the name of her favourite Timothy Findley book, and it struck her as perfect.

She had some cash to help get things going (“I’m a bit of a mattress stuffer” she says). Her husband, Jeff Nicholson, who works in software sales, was keen to help but also keep his steady day job.

Thorne hired a consultant and a designer to help her get the place ready. In her previous jobs, she’d done a lot of business planning and the like, but “bricks and mortar was new to me.” Permits, construction and the like offered a different set of challenges.

The place opened with Thorne’s custom list of cocktails, including The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (which includes tequila, of course), Bonfire of the Vanities, and even literary-named mocktails, including The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The bar serves a few snacks and offers Kobos — preloaded with a bunch of great books — to readers who wants to get some words in despite dim bar lighting.

Already, Thorne has hosted book launches and plans to start her own book club in the new year. Literature-themed event options abound, as are cozy nights with a fun drink and a good read in front of the fire.

Correction – December 12, 2016: This article was edited from a previous version that misspelled author Timothy Findley’s surname.

TORONTO STAR | BUSINESS | PERSONAL_FINANCE

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