This month we popped over to the delightful West End Lane Books for our September Bookshop of the Month. Established in West Hampstead in 1994, this family-owned bookshop is known for its impressive event schedule and community engagement. In our most rip-roaring feature yet, we spoke to Kim and Danny – the West End Lane Books team – about their favourite authors, local projects and the changing face of bookselling…
1. West End Lane Books is situated in the heart of West Hampstead. What is it like running a bookshop in this area, and how important is community engagement in your bookselling mission?
We are very lucky to be operating in an area in which people seem to care passionately about literature and also the preservation of their high street as a vibrant destination. Working within the community is so, so much more than a marketing buzzword here. We support local schools with a scheme that pays back a percentage of what their pupils’ families spend here in the form of library books, partner them on reading scheme incentives, organise pop up shops and host author talks; the list is endless. We also have free story time events and early readers clubs, and work with the local library, small businesses, local charities and reading groups.
Basically we are small, but we are super flexible and love to brainstorm new, traditional and guerrilla opportunities with our contacts and customers.
2. How do you think your bookshop, and indeed bookselling itself, has changed since the opening of West End Lane Books back in 1994?
Our bookshop has changed in as much the same way as life and culture has changed in the intervening years, but while we move with the times and are, for instance, super active online and via social media, our traditional values of friendly, smiley service and a genuine desire to send customers away happier than they were before visiting us, hasn’t changed a bit. 21st century shopping can be a bit of a soulless and anonymous experience, but we really try to get to know our customers and their tastes; our favourite thing is when a regular bowls in and asks, “Right, what am I reading next?”
3. You regularly host free author talks and book launches. What has been your favourite event of 2018 so far?
That is super hard to answer… We run a vigorous and busy programme and are massively grateful to all visiting authors and publishers who help make this happen, but personal favourites include Ian Dunt (the guy is god and should be running the country), Elizabeth Day (super cool and hugely talented novelist), Lissa Evans (she can do no wrong) and Mick Herron (a regular speaker who we totally love; his Jackson Lamb series is a permanent resident in our bestsellers). Also, major shout out to uber-thespian, the extraordinary Phyllida Law, who shared with us her memories of treading the boards (and fleapit bedsits), working with the great and the good of English theatre and cinema: brava!
4. Who would be your dream customer and why?
Bit pissed, very rich. Go figure.
5. And finally, do you have any exciting plans for the shop that you’d like to share with us?
Loads! But they’re top secret and we’d have to kill you. P.S. Yale have a super lovely sales rep; give the man a pay rise ’cause we love him!