Dreaming of Bookshops
I spent most of today reading The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell and it has been wonderful. It’s a book full of the reasons that people love books and the people who sell them. It’s touched me in a very personal way since a decade ago I was one of those people.
When I graduated from university in 2001 I had no doubt in my mind about what I wanted to do with my life – I wanted to own a bookshop. It had been a dream of mine since I was a child and it combined the two things that I loved more than anything in the world – book and talking to people.
In July 2001, Second Edition opened it’s doors for the first time in Paisley, Scotland. The shop itself was a stones throw away from the very university that I had just graduated from. It specialised in used university textbooks but also sold preloved fiction. The fiction soon became the bread and butter of the store. For two years, I put my heart and soul into the shop. I woke up every day looking forward to going to work. I spent my days cataloguing, speaking to people who loved books as much as I did and generally trying my best to make it work.
It was the happiest two years of my life but also the most stressful. Every day was a struggle to make enough money to keep the doors open. I would pray that enough people would come in and purchase some books to allow me to put money in the bank to pay for the rent, electricity, rates and much more. Paying myself came at the very end of that list and I worked part time jobs as well as running the shop so that I could pay my own rent and put petrol in my car. I couldn’t have done that without the support of my Mum and Dad who were both behind me 100%.
Closing the shop in July 2003, pretty much two years to the day it opened was one of the most heart-breaking things I have ever had to do. I knew it was for the best, that I had tried my hardest and if I wanted to actually be able to put food on the table I needed to move to being fully employed elsewhere but it still hurt. It hurt to the very pit of my stomach.
Looking back now, I’m glad that I did it. It taught me so much about budgeting, dealing with suppliers, dealing with customers and being self-sufficient. Some days I catch myself wondering if I were to do it all again now, would it be different? In this age of social media where you can communicate with your customers much more easily, would the 10 years of experience I have under my belt mean that I would do things differently? There are no answers to these questions, it’s just a guessing game…but if someone said to me ‘hey, here’s £5,000 free of charge to open your own bookshop’ I know for a fact that I would bite their hand off for a second opportunity. I even know what I would call it and what I would specialise in but for now, it’s a pleasant daydream that keeps me going when the day gets tough.
I’m so glad that Jen Campbell has written this book to give people a glimpse into the passion that lies in every bookshop and maybe one day I will get to revisit my passion again.