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Tales from the Bookseller #4

As you may or may not know, I opened my pop-up in The Tree in Manningtree at the start of the summer, so I thought it only right that I tell you a little about it all.

On the day I moved in, I got to The Tree at 5am with the till system and the computer, as I had been advised that I could get a table set up by 9/10 o’clock, then I would very likely have some customers, due to the fact there was a an art trail in town over that particular weekend. On the one hand I was like ‘just let me move in and get set up properly for Christ’s sake’ though simultaneously I was also very ‘well I cannot not do this now can I?’

So that’s exactly what happened. Whilst I was unpacking boxes and working out what was going to go where, folk were coming in and moving things and were even going through some of the dozens of boxes that I hadn’t finished unpacking. But the assumptions had been correct, and I did actually sell books whilst I was still moving in.

A few hours later when I was leaving, I was absolutely delighted yet also surprised to realise that I had ‘made a bookshop in a day’.

Obviously I went back the next day to do a bit more pottering and to straighten some books etc. but me and the shop were as ready as we were going to be.

From the off, the feedback and comments I’ve received with regards to the space I had created have been absolutely incredible and also very heartwarming. Of course I think it looks utterly amazing, but that other people do too – it all just further hammers home that bookselling and having my own shop/s is exactly what I was meant to do with my life and career. Though it has to be said that this shop has two aces up its sleeves: the huge windows, and the large table that was crafted by Tim Germain. And both give the shop the look and feel of a stylish London bookshop.

One thing I did think would be challenging to deal with is how I would cope with a smaller shop, but I’ve really enjoyed being able to see the whole shop from my counter, and this makes for a lot more conversation with the customers. And as the shop is smaller than the Ipswich shop, it was obvious that I wouldn’t be able to stock and sell the volume that I am used to in Ipswich. This only means however that I give a lot more thought to what I do have in the shop, and there is more evidence of things being curated.

Manningtree itself is lovely, it really is. And everyone I’ve met so far has been friendly and lovely. It may be the smallest town in the country (though this has often been disputed as Fordwich in Kent is a close contender) but it is very obvious to see that the people who call Manningtree home do so with a sense of pride and a smile. Add to that the fact that there are often activities and events going on too, and you begin to see why it is a town that is talked up and celebrated.

However, from my point of view, it all boils down to one simple thing. The same one simple thing that it always boils down to when I’m in the Ipswich shop. And that is simply, customers. There are simply not as many of them as I’d hoped and thought there would be, and when there’s no customers I get bored. It’s as simple as that.

When I’m absolutely snowed under, and the shop is full of customers and then a huge delivery turns up, and you’ve got no more shelf space to stack the books so you make towers of books on the floor, that is what I want. What I crave. I just don’t like not being busy in the shop. It gives me too much time to think and come up with a plan or an idea. Or another pop-up.

I’ve been told numerous times by various people that I should lower my expectations. But that is not an easy thing to do. When I look back on the first three weeks I was open in Ipswich, and I think back to how much money I was taking every day back then, and then I compare this to what I take these days, the difference in these figures is vastly huge and hugely vast. But there is nothing more I can do, other than what I’ve always done, which is to be passionate about what I do and what I sell. I just hope that things will get better and get busier.

Cos – all I want to do is sell beautiful books from one of my beautiful shops.

Andrew Marsh

The Dial Lane booksellers provide books for our audiences at SBL events.

More about the Ipswich shop here:


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