A New Bookshop in Nuneaton? Soon, Hopefully

[Editor’s Note: As you know – the More Bookshops the Better has been a pretty steady sentiment on this blog – so in hopes of seeing a new one pop up in Nuneaton, UK we’ll help Michael get the word out and keep his enthusiasm pumping.]
In March 2011, after visiting a local town, I came to the realisation that where I live, Nuneaton, UK, lacked a significant element of Culture. Nuneaton is actually the home town of George Eliot so you’d think that there would be masses of bookshops but alas, there is the large chain-store Waterstones and approximately 19 charity shops. Every month a large chain store was closing and the building being replaced by charity shops. I posted a blog on my own website www.barricadesrise.co.uk stating my frustration and how someone should start a bookshop or gallery or something. The idea festered in me until I decided one day that, yes, that person is me. After finding out my wife and I were expecting though, I scrapped the idea, until Easter this year. I researched it, researched it then researched some more. I had savings, mounds of books and desire but my stopping point was my job. After a change in job roles I decided (and was ordered by my wife!) to quit it and focus 100% on the bookshop, so I did!

Week 1 in the Books for New Pittsboro Bookshop

I finished my first week as a bookseller by closing up and dashing to a wedding, late of course, but there, nonetheless. Instead of disapproving looks from the on-time guests, and censure from the bride, I was welcomed with understanding and enthusiasm. I am the Quixotic bookman, tilting at windmills and Nooks and iPads, and slack must be cut. I get the same treatment in the store. I can’t count how many people told me this week how happy they are that there’s finally a bookstore in Pittsboro. It’s as if I’d opened the only health clinic in a remote wilderness. The customers are thanking me for opening my store as sincerely as I thank them for stopping by. But they also note how “brave” I am to be entering the bookstore business, by which they really mean “nuts,” and certainly, deep down, some of them mean “stupid.” But that’s nothing I haven’t thought myself over these past three months.

After a strong first day on Saturday, there was little business Sunday through Tuesday. Things picked up by the end of the week, and Saturday produced 35 sales which, if repeated every weekend, are enough to keep me open.  I have been trying to systematically calculate what books and what categories are most popular, and after a month or two, I’ll draw some conclusions. But I suppose I can make some assumptions about my customers based on the fact that of the hundreds of books that left the shop last week, only one was a romance novel. Perhaps the romance readers haven’t heard about the store yet, but I sold a lot of history and literature this week and I answered a lot of questions about interesting books and recorded three pages of varied book wants. It took about three days for the new books coming into the store to accumulate beyond my ability to keep up with them. Buying them and pricing them is one thing, but finding shelf space is another. I tried to fill the shelves before I opened, and for the most part I did, but I’ve added another four or five hundred books and by this time next month, my store may look like the Collyer brothers’ apartment. Besides that I still have 10,000 books in storage that I need to get into the store sometime. If it sounds like I perhaps need to suspend book acquisitions, I can’t disagree. The idea of an employee is still a little down the road – filling in a w-2 form and other accompanying work may be too much in the early days. Still, if a box of cookbooks finds its way into the store, I can’t imagine not at least looking through them – who knows when I’ll finally find the elusive “Kosher Cooking in Ireland.”

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