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In September 2001, first-year students C.K Chang and Kevin Bozzo became roommates in Carleton University’s Renfrew House. Both students shared a passion for entrepreneurship and quickly noticed that the Carleton University bookstore had a monopoly on-campus. The pair connected with fellow Carleton University student, Andy Blair, and the group of students began exploring the idea of a new business venture. Believing that the prices weren’t fair, the group of students decided to create their own student-run bookstore.
Raven Books, named after Carleton University’s mascot, Rodney the Raven, was first housed on the corner of Leonard Avenue and Hopewell Avenue. The space was small and was shared with a catering company on the floor below.
The students had spent the summer of 2002 investing their own money, doing renovations, and creating extensive marketing materials. Some of these marketing materials included bookmarks, pamphlets, and posters.
Raven Books opened in September 2002 and operated on a consignment basis. Students would be able to set the price of books they wanted to sell. Raven Books took 20% commission and issued a seller a cheque for the remaining amount.
The store opened with positive reviews from students. It was appreciated that students were able to save money on textbooks and also had a very personal experience.
The Carleton University Administration was not as pleased with Raven Books. Now a direct competitor with the Carleton University bookstore, the university took issue with the name of this student-run bookstore. Raven Books founders were issued legal notice of copyright infringement. Early into their business, the founders decided to avoid a costly court battle and alter a single letter of the name. Raven Books became Haven Books. This savvy change allowed the founders to save money on their marketing materials, rather than printing new prints- the founders printed off stickers to cover up the “R”s and replace them with “H’s.”
Business continued to grow yearly. After their first year, Haven Books had grown and required additional space, so a new building on the corner of Sunnyside Avenue and Seneca Street was purchased. Success continued to grow year after year.
In 2008, the founders began moving in different directions and were looking for new, dedicated owners. CUSA was a natural fit. With a focus on advocating for fairness for Carleton University students, CUSA chose to purchase the business and oversee operations.
Visiting Haven Books to purchase textbooks has continued to be part of the student experience at Carleton University.
In 2020, renovations allowed Haven Books to become a café space. Serving ice cream and lattes was permitted during the limited business during the pandemic.
In 2021, renovations have continued. In particular, the upstairs apartments had been renovated into bookable co-working spaces, event spaces, and meeting rooms, and a podcast studio. These renovations included small kitchenettes and bathrooms in the meeting rooms. CUSA Members and the Community will be able to book these rooms. Furthermore, there have been additions to the cafe, including a Café Manager to support the operations.
Past Co-Founder Kevin Bozzo reflected that he was “...very excited about the changes and looking forward to the future of Haven Books.” The co-founders had been searching for ways for Haven Books to continue to attract the community after the peak times in September and January. A café was something the founders of Haven Books originally explored, so it was exciting to see this original idea come to fruition.