I have been delighted to receive some positive media coverage of the shop despite only having been open for a brief period.
Firstly a great spread in the Bristol Post weekend magazine, and then featuring in the Guardian’s Top Ten Independent shops in Bristol.
I have already had numerous customers visit the shop following on from the Post article and hopefully the same will be true with this Guardian feature. It is satisfying to know the shop is appreciated and is all the motivation I need to strive to keep up the quality of stock on offer.
With the increasingly prevalent view that bookshops (and books for that matter) are passe, such favourable coverage is a great reassurance.
My thanks to Natalie Banyard of the Bristol Post and Sarah Baxter of the Guardian for their part in the publicity.
It has now been a couple of months since Dreadnought Books first opened its doors. It took me a while to settle into my new working rhythm, but now I have got over the initial anxieties I am thoroughly enjoying tending shop.
The start has been encouraging. There is still much work to be done in terms of spreading awareness and generating interest in the shop. Nevertheless takings have been reasonable, and I have already accrued some regular customers. This offers a new, social dimension, largely absent from internet selling. Whilst I am still able to use quiet times in the shop to proceed with listing books online, the intermittent interaction with shop customers provides a good balance to the working day. No longer is the computer screen my only working companion.
I have been particularly pleased with the favourable reaction received from the public. Whilst many have commented on it being a somewhat brave move to open a second-hand bookshop in the current economic climate, both in general terms, and particularly regarding the current state of the book trade. Many are delighted to see a second-hand bookshop opening, in stark contrast to recent years, where Bristol, as in many other places, has seen the number of second-hand bookshops dwindle considerably. This popular good will has further confirmed to me that with plenty of hard work I can make a good go of things and hopefully be here for many years to come.
Adjusting to city life has also been a gradual process, and one that is still in progress, but I am already beginning to enjoy what Bristol has to offer.
Publicity is now the main item on my working agenda. I have been interviewed by a journalist from the Bristol Post for a feature on new independent shops which should hopefully appear in about a fortnight’s time, and am steadily disseminating my promotional propaganda across the city. I have set up a Facebook page for the shop and hope to use this for updates on new stock intakes, event announcements, and brief contemplations on books and bookselling more generally. Whilst continuing to post occasional blog articles should I feel compelled to write more extensively on something.
Please like the Facebook page if you wish to keep abreast with Dreadnoughts’ development:https://www.facebook.com/DreadnoughtBooks
The last few months have been an exciting time for Dreadnought. At the end of last spring I made the decision to relocate the business and began a search for new premises. Initially I was uncertain as to exactly what form these premises would take. My ideal scenario was always to find a shop space above which I could live. However it appeared more likely that a lock-up of some sort would have to be the first step. I was keeping my options open as to the exact destination of the move, but had Bristol and Cardiff at the top of the list.
The larger local customer base on offer in a city was a significant factor, as was my desire to live in a more exciting environment. I was also keen not to move too far from Abergavenny as I had built up a series of good book buying and selling contacts in the area that I was reluctant to lose.
Preliminary searching suggested that a shop premises with living accommodation may be as financially viable as a lock-up. Whilst costs would be higher, with a bit more effort, the extra sales capacity could make up for it. My personal desire to run a bookshop was also a factor in channeling my search in this direction.
It was on the Bristol City Council website where I was to find the premises from which I now write this piece. Whilst it was still very early days in my search it seemed like it had some potential. I was also quite keen on the idea of having the Council as my landlords, reckoning they may be more sympathetic toward small businesses than a purely commercial operation.
As such I arranged to pay a visit to 125 St. Georges Rd, Hotwells, to check the place out. I’d seen a picture of the shop front but was unsure what to expect of its internal state. I feared it would be rather more dilapidated than turned out to be the case. This fear was heightened by the fact that the premises were advertised as open to rental offers, with no indication as to their necessary magnitude. I was rather taken aback then to discover the place to be in rather good shape, with considerable recent works having been done. For the entirety of the viewing I was trying not to get too excited by the prospect of setting up there as in many ways it seemed ideal, but I was fearful it would be rather beyond my means. My enquiry as to the region of expected offers left me more hopeful. I was also pleased to hear that the property would be allocated based on suitability and viability rather than to the highest bidder. I consequently returned home for some serious business planning, and cobbled together my proposal, more in hope than expectation. I knew I was in competition with two others for the lease but had no idea as to the nature or trade of my competitors. I focused on hyping the suitability of a second-hand bookshop for the area. With antiques and retro fashion outlets in the local vicinity it seemed to be a good fit. I also played up the minimal number of second-hand bookshops in Bristol for a city of its size in the hope that these factors may compensate for what I anticipated may be a lower cash offer than my competitors.
And I waited. The longer I did so the less hope I pinned on the place. To the point where, when a response did come I was expecting rejection. This only made me all the more excited when I opened the letter to discover that despite my offer being the lowest of the three it had been accepted.
I then entered a period of frantic preparation. Everyday seemed to bring a new challenge. It was hard going and frustrating at times, with some unexpected financial burdens incurred. But at no point did I regret taking the plunge. There was a somewhat protracted period where it seemed as if I had an unending list of tasks to complete, many of which I was unable to really get going on whilst the lease was still being drawn up. But finally, on October 1st, the day came where I was to take up the lease and I could finally begin to put all my planning into action.
This brought yet more new tasks. I have done more D.I.Y. in the past month and a half than in the entirety of my life prior to taking up the shop. It’s not my natural forte but in the context of the wider project it was enjoyable. The act of making the space my own was a unique experience and seeing the transformation through has been the source of great satisfaction.
During this time I received a lot of support and assistance from friends and family for which I am very grateful. Whether it was donating furniture, building shelves, painting, transporting loads of books or just providing support and advice there are many without whom I would not have been able to reach the point I am at now. I don’t want to reel off a list of names, but I must give a special mention to my parents whose support has been invaluable to launching Dreadnought in shop form.
There is still much work to be done. The walls are still looking somewhat bare and my shop front signage is still in preparation. I am refraining from posting pictures of the front until this work is done, but there are a couple of internal pictures to give an idea of the space. Despite this I was able to open for the first time on Tuesday 19th November and have had a very encouraging first week. With some additional promotion I am confident of a bright future.
I am also excited to be living in Bristol, a city which seems to have a lot of interest to offer. Whilst I’ve yet to have a great deal of time to explore my new surroundings, I have already been made to feel very welcome by my neighbouring shopkeepers and passing locals, delighted to see a bookshop in the area.
So if you happen to be in Bristol please come down to say hello and browse the stock. I’m at 125 St. Georges Rd., Hotwells, BS1 5UW, just a short walk from the City Centre. I hope to offer a welcoming environment to book enthusiasts of all stripes