Article published on June 16, 2016.
The Mainstreet Trading Company – we have waxed lyrical about this bookshop cum coffee shop cum deli cum gift shop because we heard such good – brief – reports of it. However, when Maddy Broome who lives in the north east said she was planning to visit for an event we quickly asked her to tell us how it went. True to her word and even better she was able to interview one of the owners. Over to Maddy:
This is a delightful place to visit. Situated in the lovely village of St Boswells, about 10 miles north of Jedburgh, it was set up as a bookshop and café in 2008 by Rosamund and Bill de la Hay. It has now added a deli and home shop and it also holds regular author events. They have welcomed writers such as Michael Murpurgo, Clare Balding, Jeremy Paxman and Margaret Atwood. I was there to see Maggie O’Farrell talk about her new book ‘This Must be the Place’. It was my first visit but definitely won’t be the last, although I had to drive 75 miles to get there! In 2012 they were awarded Best Bookshop by the Telegraph Best Small Shops Awards and also Independent Bookshop of the Year at the Bookseller Industry Awards. Rosamund was formerly Children’s Marketing Director at Bloomsbury Publishing and has just been elected as President of the Booksellers Association. Rosamund kindly agreed to answer some questions about the bookshop and her new role.
What brought you to the Borders and to setting up the bookshop?
I am originally from the west coast of Scotland and had always thought of moving back here. Having spent 12 years in London, it was time for a change. We looked for somewhere that was fairly accessible to main roads /railway and also near to at least 2 good friends. Having found this building in St Boswells, I commuted to London for 4 years. The shape and space of the building, a former auction house, dictated the layout of the bookshop and the café.
I understand there is a book group attached to the shop. Did that start straightaway? Was it your idea or did local people ask for it?
Local people started it. It was originally held during the day, but we realised that limited it to people who didn’t work, so we started an evening group too. We tend to choose books through ‘osmosis’.
Do you draw upon your contacts and time in publishing to entice such prestigious authors to the events?
My contacts were really only useful for children’s events, although my knowledge of the business obviously helps. Publishers will recommend authors and sometimes I will phone them if there’s an author I’d particularly like to invite. We try to aim for variety; because of the café and deli, we’ve had quite a few cookery themed events with demos.
We’ve recently installed our own stage and sound system in the barn, which means we don’t have to remember to hire them each time there’s an event, sponsored by Johnstons Cashmere from Elgin.
What have been the ups and downs of the venture?
There haven’t really been that many but I would say the main challenge is getting the balance of the staffing right. I’ve had to learn to deal with the dreaded staff rota! We have to have staff skilled in all the different areas of the business – books; café and kitchen; deli; home and most importantly scones.
Could you tell me something about the children’s section/Book Burrows and the Book Van?
The children’s section of the bookshop is very important to me because of my previous job. We are very proud of our ‘Book Burrows’. (These are delightfully decorated little hidey-holes under the stairs where children can go and listen to audiobooks.)
This is the first year of running the Book Van, which has been co-ordinated with the local council. It is a way of giving children a mini experience of being in a book shop. We realised that it was quite expensive for schools to hire a coach to bring children to us when we had a Children’s author event, so now we take the author to them. After the event in the school, the children can go onto the van and get books signed and buy books or just a bookmark!
Is there any author you’d really like to have come to an event?
I would have liked to get Andrew Motion when he wrote his first novel. I would also like to have Jilly Cooper as I think she would be good fun. Joanna Trollope, Ian McEwan – but they maybe don’t need to do these sort of events.
You’ve just become President of the Bookseller’s association. What are your plans for that role?
It’s early days yet and my plans are evolving. I think it will be incredibly interesting. I think it should be a collaborative trade with more communication between the publishers and bookshops. I’ve seen it from both sides now. I’d like to get publishers out of their comfort zone and back to grassroots and get them to visit bookshops to see what is happening there.
I also think it’s quite good timing with encouraging sales figures for print books and the settling of the ebook market as a format rather than all-consuming force, though there are obviously still big issues like the dominance of Amazon.
Any other comments?
I’ve found that other bookshops have been very supportive, we complement each other rather than being in competition. A couple of years ago, we published together the Borders Book Trail with nine bookshops in the Borders, and we often work with other indies to make an author tour worth the journey north.
My pure indulgence would be to run just a bookshop.
Many thanks to Maddy and Ros.
Mainstreet Trading Company is a Love Your Indie bookshop