Thursday 12 May 2016

A bookshop does not need four walls

The blog's been a bit of an emotional journey these past couple of weeks, with the excitement of my first Northern Bookshop Adventure, followed by the sadness of a bookshop lost. Now it's time for the joy of a bookshop born.

Okay, so technically it's not just been born, but as I was visiting at the time of DRAKE – The Bookshop's seven month birthday I reckon that counts as being quite new. Which also means this bookshop is full of ideas and enthusiasm and doing a great job of sharing it with the people of Stockton-on-Tees in Durham.

I'll be honest. I was very nervous about visiting this bookshop. My visits are normally in secret, with me only saying hello once I've confirmed I really do like the bookshop in question*, but this time not only did they know I was coming, they were also putting me up for the night after having invited me north to meet them and their (in the loosest sense) neighbouring bookshops.

Which means nervous probably doesn't come close to my mood as I made my way through the busy town centre in search of Enterprise Arcade (found very close to the main shopping centre).

Further to these worries, I've also got to admit I wasn't sure what to expect from a unit in a shopping arcade – would it still feel like a bookshop?

Taking the concerns in reverse, yes a unit in an arcade can definitely be a very bold and welcoming bookshop. From the moment I entered the building DRAKE – The Bookshop was in my line of sight, big and colourful and calling out to readers to join in the fun. There were lots of other interesting looking shops too, but the view of the books made me in a hurry to get stuck in.

And naturally, my other concerns weren't worth worrying about. Richard and Mel are booksellers, which by default makes them lovely people. Their friendliness immediately put me at ease and the non-alcoholic mead and Shakespeare Day cake they provided were an added bonus in the middle of my bookshop adventure.

We made our introductions, talked books and it didn't take long to confirm what I've said above: You don't need four walls and a window to create a bookshop.

From a beautifully arranged bookshop space – including a dedicated children's section that drew in several young readers during my visit – to author visits; and I believe in the last few days a James Patterson grant, this bookshop has achieved remarkable things in a very short space of time. And that really isn't the half of it: this bookshop started with a bang and has kept on going.

On top of all this, it really is a great space to visit. The shelves are fun and well-stocked (with the booksellers helping me decide on Fish Bowl by Bradley Somer) and there's a simply a good feeling about the place. Throw in a stream of customers, in particular the youngsters visiting the bright and colourful children's section, and the whole experience proved to me that whatever DRAKE – The Bookshop's secret ingredient is, it's working.

Starting a new business at any time is a bold move, opening a bookshop even more so. In the case of DRAKE – The Bookshop I believe it was also a great move and I look forward to following their progress for many years to come.

DRAKE – The Bookshop
Enterprise Arcade, 35-37 High Street,
Stockton-on-Tees, Durham, TS18 1SB
Tel: 07949 049917

UPDATE: DRAKE – The Bookshop has now moved. Find them at:
27 Silver Street,
TS18 1SX
I'll re-visit and write an update as soon as I'm able to.

*as regular readers will know, if I don't like a bookshop I don't write about it.

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