Tuesday, 15 September 2015

'Poets on Bar Street' – and, meet Wardle & Jones

Today, I'm excited to bring you news of a new series of poetry readings in Scarborough, at recently-opened independent bookshop Wardle & Jones. Details of the readings can be found below, in the poster, and afterwards I thought I'd let W&J's proprietors share a few thoughts on the daunting process of opening a new bookshop. Wish them luck!  J.M.

We are Rachel and Karl – the two halves of Wardle & Jones. 

I am the Wardle half and it's my smile you'll usually see as you come through the door. I mainly read fiction, I also love children's books and am more likely to be found perusing our children's stock than reading a book aimed at grown ups. Karl, the Jones half, on the other hand much prefers non-fiction – history, politics, philosophy – he also loves Terry Pratchett.

We decided to open a book shop after lots of talking, thinking, research and training. It is the one thing Karl and I had always talked about doing together with true excitement. I was aiming to find my sparkle again after leaving a 12-year career as a project manager. It was definitely the right decision – my sparkle’s back and we love being in Scarborough.

We opened on 20 June 2015 after a frenetic five weeks of work from both family and some of the most conscientious trades people I've ever met. There was only one major hiccup when, 10 days before opening, we were told the material for the shelves and counter was not available. Not only would it not be delivered in the next three days as planned, it wasn’t going to be delivered at all! I began contacting local joiners and carpenters and by the end of the following day I'd managed to line up a two-man team. They were new to the area and needed to build a good reputation quickly, it was a fortuitous meeting for all concerned. They did a good quality job and we opened on time, phew!

We decided on books, coffee and cake as the right combination because we'd visited other places where this mixture worked well. Two of our favourite bookshops are Barter Books in Alnwick and Mr B's Book Emporium in Bath. Mr B's doesn't serve coffee and cake but they do have lots of space and comfy nooks to sit and enjoy the books. We wanted to give everyone a place to enjoy being around books in a safe, comfy environment where there was a reason to stay longer and have a proper look.

Our challenge was to fit that into a very small space – just 30m2; serving only cake was the solution. We knew we wanted to serve freshly ground coffee, that way book and coffee lovers alike would have a reason to visit, stay – well, only until closing – and return. So we made sure there was space for an espresso machine and grinder on our carefully designed counter (thanks to Mr Jones' hidden – until now – talent for technical drawings).

Almost 10 weeks in I am enjoying life more than I have for years. I’m excited every day about the people I might meet in the shop and the thoughts, opinions, ideas and memories they might share. But I am fearful of the future too, will we be able to sell enough books, coffee and cake to stay open? Business is at best steady and we certainly need to be selling more in the coming weeks, months and years to carry on for the foreseeable future, but we're hopeful. There are a number of as yet untapped income streams – we are just starting to put together an events calendar, we'd like to start supplying schools when the new school year starts and we have yet to run any joint events with local venues.

Finally, one thing I find useful as a bookseller is to remind myself the books in the shop aren't mine, they already belong to someone else. That way I find it easy to let people look, touch, feel and enjoy the books in their own way, so hopefully they're more likely to make them theirs before leaving.

You can read more about W&J here.

1 comment:

  1. A delightful bookshop! what a wonderful blog to read. I wish you well.
    surely in life.
    all you need is books, cake and fine coffee!:-)