After 55 years at its current premises, Axminster’s Archway Bookshop is planning to move a short distance to be at the very heart of the town with the opening of a much enlarged store at the resurgent Trinity House later this year.
Simon Holmes bought the business at the beginning of 2019, and has since then worked with his part-time team to secure its future and to build a secondary online bookstore that helped it to survive the pandemic. The decision to move has, he says, been a difficult one but he is confident that it will enable the bookshop to move into a new era in which it can better fulfil its community role as well as its customers’ needs.
“I feel almost guilty about leaving Church Street and am conscious that for many it represents the epitome of a traditional quirky bookshop,” says Simon. “But the reality of independent bookshops today is that you have to achieve a certain scale in order to be able to offer not just a bigger selection of books but also to diversify into things like gifts and toys that sit happily alongside them. The premises also need to be accessible to all, which is sadly not currently the case given our existing spiral staircase.”
He added: “Trinity House is in itself a big slice of Axminster’s history and we greatly admire what Ian Styles and Axminster Property are achieving there. To be a part of that and of Axminster’s general resurgence is a massive opportunity and I am confident we can give the town a bookshop that will attract visitors from a distance as well as our loyal local customers.
“We are particularly excited to be just a staircase away from the amazing Community Waffle House and the inspirational team that is driving so much social progress in the town. Books and coffee (and indeed waffles) live very happily together, so it’s a relationship that I think will work well.
“The Archway has been a community asset in the Axminster for so many years and, amongst other functions, acts as a booking office for a host of local events. We very much want that to continue and are looking at literacy initiatives in particular that will further develop our role.”
The new premises will provide the bookshop with nearly double the space of the current shop and will have added benefits from modern purpose-designed lighting and an effective heating and air conditioning system. It will also provide the Archway with two customer entrances – direct from the street and also from the main foyer of Trinity House – and a large expanse of window space in a prime position to promote its stock. Discussions are underway with publishers to ensure that the business is able to take full advantage of its new status via an enlarged book stock and the resources with which to promote it.
“It is a very exciting time and there is much to do to get the best from this opportunity,” says Simon. “We can’t at the moment commit to an opening date but we are hoping to be at our new home towards the end of the year. We will be regularly communicating the details and sharing the evolving plans with our customers via our newsletter and social media.”