Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The bookshop that blew away

For the last ten years Nottingham has been a one bookshop city. (I declare an interest, having worked in the last indie, Mushroom Bookshop, from 1978-1995, which closed in 2000.) There are two good small indies in the County, The Bookworm at Retford - which is nearer Sheffield than Nottingham - and The Bookcase in Lowdham, but they can't do the job that a city independent can do so brick and mortar book buyers have a choice of Waterstone's or the book section of a single WH Smiths. However good or bad that one Waterstone's may be, that's not a lot of choice.
In September, I went to look at some offices with another book group as both of us were in need of bigger office space. The space they had found is pictured here - the old HQ of the wonderful Victorian architect, Watson Fothergill. On the ground floor you will see a shop... Immediately the plan changed to have a bookshop there, with the Five Leaves' office behind. A radical(ish) and a literary(ish) shop, with a big events programme the stock going way beyond what we publish. The rent was good as the premises are in a dead shopping area - fine if you are a "destination". But the premises are about three minutes from the arthouse cinema in town, three minutes from a main thoroughfare and seven from Waterstone's. The beautiful Grade II listed building would be our best advertisement. Perfect. We had to move fast. We sorted out terms with a wholesaler and some major suppliers, a computer package, agreed to buy shelving from a Christian bookshop that had just closed, semi-organised staffing and started drawing up the initial stocklist and events programme - to open in October. Everyone would want to visit - but they might only visit once before returning to Waterstone's and Amazon, so they had to visit at a time they would spend most money. We would open for the Christmas season. One Friday morning we agreed every bit of detail with the landlord's agent, with the lease to be signed on the Monday. That same afternoon the landlord decided to withdraw the shop from the market as he now wants to turn the offices upstairs into flats. And flat was how we felt.
Are we looking for alternative premises? No. This was the one. You can see why.
ps. Just to cheer myself up I walked past the premises yesterday (15th December) and found the landlord had let the shop after all. Good luck to "Silky Hosiery". So how did that happen?

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