This month’s Bookshop of the Month is Nantwich Bookshop and Coffee Lounge, a well-known family-run independent in Cheshire. Established in 2003, Nantwich Bookshop has since catered to happy customers for years, and they look forward to continuing this work for years to come! Read on to learn more.
1. What was it that inspired you to set up Nantwich Bookshop back in 2003?
I have always had a love of books, especially beautiful coffee table types. One of Bookland’s (small northwest chain) stores came up for sale and we saw the potential of adding a Coffee Lounge to the Bookshop. My wife loves cooking so it was a win/win opportunity. It was also a perfect environment to bring up our two girls. They have both cut their teeth on the working world here with us and have gone on to be successful young ladies in their own right.
2. What’s it like running a bookshop in Cheshire? How have you seen the area change over the years?
As you can imagine there have been tough times as well as excellent times. Being in a market town and near Crewe (a railway hub) we have a lovely core of customers who appreciate having an independent bookshop. It is also very easy to reach Nantwich via rail and road. Just 10 minutes away from Crewe Station, and the M6. We were the first on the Nantwich high street to have alfresco dining. The High Street has evolved over the years that we have been here and it’s a really lovely destination with some Tudor buildings on the square. Our Bookshop has also evolved, having been only books downstairs, and the coffeeshop that we ‘created’ after the first year in the building, upstairs, to become a fully integrated Bookshop and Coffee Lounge with sofas downstairs surrounded by our ever-changing ” wallpaper” of gorgeous books.
During lockdown, the local church lent us their gazebo and we were able to do take away food and drink and click and collect books. Because of this, many people who may not have come to us previously have continued supporting us. Book sales have increased as have food and beverage sales. Without the coffeeshop, I am not sure if we would have survived all the knocks thrown at Bookshops. It also helps that Nantwich has grown over the years, and folk like to support indies. We have also invested in a really good gazebo so folk who still feel uncomfortable can sit outside all year long.
3. What types of books have your customers been buying recently? Have you noticed any trends?
The Independent bookshop editions with colourful sprayed edges (mainly fiction) are proving popular as are the cosy crime genre by celebrities. We haven’t ever really been huge on selling fiction, but these editions certainly have got people interested and buying.
Anything related to the environment and British Countryside is selling really well too. Our stronger selling sections are military, history, politics, in fact, anything real. Being close to Crewe, we do sell many railway books and anything to do with transport. In fact, we are the only bookshop in the country that sells a particular book on ERF trucks, so this helps Christmas sales for ERF enthusiasts.
4. Do you find that being family-owned sets you apart from other bookshops? If so, how?
Being family owned doesn’t particularly set us apart from other bookshops however it does help us achieve a sense of ‘community’ in our endeavours. Tongue in cheek, sometimes customers like the family disputes from behind the counter. Being in a remarkable building people tend to gravitate to us. There is a real feeling of homeliness about the shop. Our staff (who we regard as an extension of our own family) are friendly and there is always a welcome smile and greeting from any one of us. We try and support the local community as much as we can. We have quite a community of senior citizens in Nantwich. With this comes loneliness. We have “Chatty Tables” where customers feel comfortable sitting with strangers who leave as friends. I feel a lot of what we offer is because we are a family-run business.
5. And finally, do you have any exciting plans for the shop in the coming months that you’d like to share with us?
We’re looking forward to the annual hustle and bustle of Xmas sales over the next couple of months. We are always looking at ways of evolving our shop. Seven years ago we opened our doors to customers and their dogs, we bring our Staffie into work most days – though only on the ground floor of the shop and outside. Upstairs remains a sanctuary for those who prefer not having animals about.
Four weeks ago we introduced Button the Bookshop kitten. What a following he has developed! Visits with him turn into almost guaranteed book sales. We keep having regular author events (both well-known and local). We are also venturing into doing events at local universities when they have guest speakers. Our first such event is taking place at Keele University at the end of this month. All in all, it looks like a bright future here for us at Nantwich Bookshop and Coffee Lounge.