There are days when I (Simon Holmes) still can’t quite believe that I have made the transition to become a bookseller. I took over the delightful Archway Bookshop just a month ago and think it may well be one of the best things I have ever done.
While I previously enjoyed a fulfilling career as a consultant in a particularly worthwhile social care field, having my own bookshop takes things into a new dimension. There is a special magic in books and in sharing the joy of them with others.
The learning curve is a steep one and I recognise that I still have a long way to go. I owe much to my predecessor, Tim Pritchard, who still pops in to provide experienced advice. I am also fortunate in having Jane, Liz and Rosemary alongside me as long-standing members of staff.
I was never in doubt about the challenges of becoming an independent bookseller in an industry that has taken a bit of battering over the past 15 years. But there are signs that the tide is turning. Sales of Kindles are falling back as many readers return to the tactile beauty of real books. And the ‘buy local’ message is gaining traction amongst those who don’t feel the imperative to buy online and want to keep their town centres alive while supporting local jobs.
As I feel my feet, there are a few ways in which I would like to refresh what is already a very fine shop. We have moved things around a little and are making some small changes to the decor over time. We are also closely analysing our stock to try ensure that it meets the needs of our particular customers – both books and greetings cards. We are also renovating the garden and hope to make it an attractive summertime adjunct.
The biggest joy has undoubtedly been the warm welcome I (and my little dog Pebbles) have received from customers and from the wider Axminster community. I had never quite appreciated the role a good bookshop plays within a community. Thank you everyone for that.