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I Did It! I Opened a Bookshop!

I Did It! I Opened a Bookshop!

It feels so strange to be writing those words to you, after all it was only a few short weeks ago that I told you about my little seed of an idea, yet yesterday afternoon at five o’clock I turned the open sign to closed, and reflected on my first day in business at The Book Room.

And what a day it was!

First, I must spin back and tell you a little of the lead up. A customer said to me in the shop yesterday: ‘how do you do it all?’ Well, my house is a mess, I’ve got piles of washing to do, I haven’t seen my child for days because she’s been having sleepovers with a brilliant friend, my mum has been dog-sitting, and the cats are lucky if they get the odd stroke in passing at the moment, so there are always sacrifices to be made at the start of a new venture. But every single person who came through that door and bought a book yesterday made those sacrifices worthwhile.

(I did remind her there was no limit on purchases!)

Then there was the issue of dressing a window, something I had never done before. Lucie, who has so generously let me share part of her gorgeous florist The Bloom Foundry, had the genius idea of putting this ‘once upon a time’ sign in a huge gold frame, which gave me a starting point.

I cannot tell you how many times I bashed my head on this frame while dressing the window.

Lucie also donated a small kids’ desk which made a perfect place to display children’s books, and the boxes she gave me meant I could stagger the books at different heights. Lucie has been in retail for years (you must check out her beautiful website) so I feel so supported by her, especially the moments when I have my own ‘genius’ idea and I look back at her and she gently explains how that would be a complete health and safety hazard.

I nipped back in the dead of night with a lamp from my living room to light up the window

Yesterday morning I arrived at the shop at 9.30am, and turned the sign to open, and waited…

First in was the postman, I cannot describe the excitement as he crossed the threshold! You cannot underestimate as a small business just how delighted you are for each and every person who comes into your shop.

Anyway, he handed me some letters, I took them, and he left.

But next arrived my first two real customers, and it just so happened to be Sarah Salway, local novelist, poet, short story writer extraordinaire, who also has curated a gorgeous list of short story books for The Book Room.

My first customers, Sarah and Francis
Sarah Salway posing with her list of short stories collections

After Sarah and Francis’ visit there was a steady stream of people all day. I was still writing out my cards for the Writers Recommend sections, but the books in the curations were flying off the shelves thanks to the Writers Recommend stickers, and so by the end of the day, I still hadn’t written out the cards explaining exactly why the authors love those books so much.

The enthusiasm in the shop was infectious yesterday, which sounds wrong given Covid, but you know what I mean. Everybody had made a special effort to come out in the rain to visit the shop because they were so excited at the thought of an independent bookshop in Tunbridge Wells. And this is just what I need, this shop after all will not survive if it is not for their enthusiasm, I can put together a lovely list of books and persuade other authors to curate collections in their own genres too, but it is people like those wonderful customers yesterday who are prepared to brave the rain and come and buy something that give this shop a chance of becoming a permanent one.

It was so exciting to see what people came up to the till with, it was so lovely to come out from behind the counter and talk about books, or explain more about the curations that authors had picked. Marc Hamer’s selection of nature writing proved a hit, as did Karen Angelico’s list of books about love and intimacy, and I was soon clambering into the window (minding my head and the giant hanging frame) to replenish the shelves with books. Stanley Tucci was probably the standout seller of the day.

I didn’t even get time to write the cards explaining just why Marc loves these books so much
Karen Angelico’s curation of books on love and intimacy

It was simply a magical day, and by five o’clock when I turned the sign back from open to closed, I was in equal parts thrilled and exhausted – what a nice feeling!

Anyway, I could write more and more, but perhaps it’s best to just show you what the customers were saying by the end of the day, and anyway, I really need to get a wash of school clothes and bedding on before I open again today from 11-4, and I must – must – get that website up and running by this evening ready for my digest of the book reviews.

I would love to see you today in the shop if you can brave more rain! You will find me at The Book Room inside The Bloom Foundry at 55 St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TP.




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