I warn you, this blog post is going to tug on your heartstrings. There, you have been warned.
I'm introducing you all to Ellie, who runs Book End, a bookshop in Bakewell, with her mother. She's going to tell you the story of her bookshop. Ellie's bookshop is also in 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops':
Boy: Mummy, can I have this book?
Woman: Go and see if your dad will buy it for you.
Boy: Dad! Mum says if you don't buy me this book, then you can't sleep in her bed tonight!
So, here we go. The story of a wonderful bookshop! Hurray!
"People said we were mad when we mentioned our idea of opening a second-hand bookshop in the middle of a recession. At that point, that's all it was, an idea... but the wonderful thing about ideas is how they can flourish at the right time, and in the right place. For me, my bookshop bloomed from one of the hardest times of my life. I started to develop agoraphobia when I was 20, and when I realised that things were so bad that I couldn't leave the house any more, I made the difficult decision to leave university and move home. A year down the line, when I could still barely get out the front door, my mum Lynne took time off work to help get me back on my feet - and she soon realised that she didn't want to go back to her old job. It was at that point, with my confidence steadily improving, and both of us starting to look at entering work again, that the word 'bookshop' first tumbled from our lips.
"I'm one of those 'once a reader, always a reader' people; I learned to read early and have never looked back. My mum and stepdad are also devoted readers, and my sister too - though she took a little longer to discover the joy of books than I did - and the dream of running a bookshop quickly manifested itself in my young mind. Growing up, I loved Black Books and idolised Kathleen Kelly in Nora Ephron's rom-com You've Got Mail, because they had the job I wanted and their shops looked so lovely! A few more years down the line, I discovered Jeremy Mercer's Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs, about his year-long stay under the watchful eye of George Whitman at Paris's Shakespeare and Company bookshop, and the dream stirred again.
"It was in early 2009 that we started semi-seriously looking for properties and considering where we might like to open our still-not-quite-real bookshop. In the end we settled on the pretty little tourist town of Bakewell, the so-called Jewel of the Peak District, a fifteen-minute drive along the valley bottom from our house. While the rents for retail properties in the centre of town are quite steep, we found a little end shop, right by the famous 700 year-old bridge, for a much more reasonable figure that wouldn't blow our budget completely. It needed a lot of work doing to it inside, but actually it's lovely being in a slightly quieter, more picturesque spot, even if the footfall isn't quite so high. It's particularly nice in summer, when the door is open and we can hear the ducks and geese nearby. Come June it's not unusual to hear a cry of 'DUCKLINGS!' and see both of us sprint past and out the door because we've clocked some telltale squeaking coming from the river!
"We opened on Bakewell Carnival Day, 4 July 2009, and we've never looked back. Everything's still pretty much done on a shoestring - our opening celebration involved jugs of orange juice, plates of cookies, and tiny fairy cakes with books iced onto the top! - but we've still managed to grow and evolve over the past three years into a buzzing, bright and busy little shop. We don't even pay ourselves minimum wage, but to be honest, as long as we're ticking over and paying both the shop bills AND our own comfortably, we don't really mind that much. Our gift range helps keep profits up even when book sales are down, and selling via our AbeBooks storefront is a lifesaver come wintertime. And hey, I guess what we lack in funds, we make up for in enthusiasm... most of the time... :)
"Books aside, we're really just trying to create a nice atmosphere here for people to come and browse, and we're at liberty to do it all our own way. We have several lovely regulars who come each week for a chat, and our first ever customer, the lovely David, gets a good sit down, a cup of tea and a delve into our biscuit tin each time he visits. Basically, if we can do anything to encourage readers and make their visits more enjoyable, we'll do it! If you have a cough, we'll get you a glass of water. If your super-enthusiastic kids buy twelve books, we'll usually knock a little something off the price. I even have a couple of young regulars who are so refreshing in their love for books (mostly we just get insolent teens, sadly) that I'll occasionally pass one of my own books onto them for free when they visit. We stick little cards in books we've enjoyed and have a pinboard showcasing books we've been reading, reviews and national bestseller lists. We have a cushion hung on the wall for bottom-shelf browsing, a shop teddy called Aloysius reading in the children’s section, and we sell eggs from our own hens by the dozen. In fact, some days the Orchard Girls are more popular than the books!
Bookshop address: Book End, Bridge House, Bridge Street, Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1DS
Phone: (01629) 814994
Ellie's blog: http://musingsofabookshopgirl.
Thanks, Ellie! x
More bookshop spotlights:
#1 Ripping Yarns
#2 Constellation Books
#3 Storytellers, Inc.
#4 Belgravia Books
#5 Riverbend Books
#6 Blackwells, Oxford
#7 The Book Barge
[If you're a bookseller and you'd like to do a bookshop spotlight on the blog, drop me an email]