This Saturday sees the start of Independent Bookshop Week (18th to 26th June), and there are lots of events at independent bookshops around the UK and Ireland. Visit the website to find out what’s going on near you, or follow the organisation on Twitter.
My celebration of independent bookshops continues with The Chepstow Bookshop. I visited the shop earlier this year, where I met a couple of lovely booksellers, but didn’t get to say hello to Matt Taylor, the owner, who was out visiting a school. But he kindly answered my questions:
Can you tell me something about the history of Chepstow Books?
There has been a bookshop on this site for at least 50 years. It became a “new” bookshop (selling new rather than second hand books) 20 years ago. I took over 10 years ago after moving from London (where I worked for Borders Books).
What’s your favourite section?
With two children (7 and 11) the children’s book section has been a revelation. Amazed by the quality and depth of writing available now for children.
If you had infinite space what would you add?
I’d love a café in the shop or attached to it. Recently went to Paris and saw what had been done with the iconic Shakespeare and co (actually with quite limited space).
What’s the hardest thing about running an independent bookshop?
Feel very lucky owning a bookshop and having a job I enjoy. Being independent does mean you have to solve all your problems yourself (from IT to accounts) but that has its own sense of satisfaction.
Who is your favourite customer?
I love a customer who wants recommendations – either for themselves or as a gift. Enjoy finding out what they enjoy and showing them books that I’ve loved.
What’s the craziest situation you’ve ever had to deal with in the bookshop?
Not here, but when I was at Borders for the opening day of the Charing Cross Road branch I managed to get myself trapped in a lift with singer songwriter Joan Baez as the audience waited on the second floor.
What’s your best/first memory of visiting a bookshop?
Always loved going in bookshops as a child. Remember winning a book token as a school prize and being very excited.
What would you like your customers to do differently?
Its down to customers where they shop, very happy they choose us and we work very hard to offer them something unique.
What would you like authors or publishers to do differently?
Authors and publishers have been incredibly supportive. We’ve hosted 100s of events in Chepstow and it is such a buzz to have a full hall in front of an author as I introduce them.
What’s been the biggest surprise of owning an independent bookshop?
The amount of work (in a good way) and the energy and ability across the sector.
What fairly unknown book do you think more people should know about?
Love it when formally forgotten books are “rediscovered”. I’ve been putting Hans Fallada “Alone in Berlin” in the hands of lots of people.
What book are you currently recommending / hand-selling?
Loved “The Wolf Wilder” by Katherine Rundell.