Sunday, 27 January 2008

Go ahead, make my day...

I'm pleased to say that this weekend has been a good one. Not only did the hulking great glass cabinets magically disappear today and make the shop seem sooooooo much bigger, but yesterday I got a much needed boost of confidence from literally, some random people on the street. They had stopped by to pick up a card and present from what they thought was still a gift shop (an easy mistake to make, it still says 'gift shop' above the door). I informed them that contrary to the 20ft gold sign, actually the gift shop was no more and in a few months time it would re-open as a new bookshop (possibly Bo'ness's first?). I thought they'd be mildly disappointed at the fact they couldn't get what they'd wandered in for but instead they actually jumped for joy (OK, a much cliched phrase but completely apt in this case). Apparently the fact that a bookshop is coming to Bo'ness is just great and I had totally made their day. Which was nice, because with that reaction, they'd totally made mine. I only hope when I open the doors that the shop and the choice of stock etc. is good enough to keep them (and everyone else) happy enough to become regulars. It was just a little thing really but it helped me find enough motivation to carry on cleaning for another few hours, so thanks ladies!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The Grand Plan

I think I've finally cracked it. I've drawn up 'The Grand Plan'. ...Hang on, I'll start that again, after all with the effort that went into it, it's worthy of full caps, colour and some emboldening... it's 'THE GRAND PLAN'.

Having spent the last few days slaving over a hot laptop and obsessively moving little scaled bookshelf-shaped boxes around inside a bigger scaled bookshop-shaped box, I've managed to work out what I think will be the optimum layout for the shop. It's all very exciting. I don't know if anyone has ever tried designing a bookshop, but to let you in on my thoughts over the last few days, here's a few of the things I've been stressing about:
  • The place can't look too crowded, but neither can it look to empty
  • It needs to have a reasonable sized space in front of the door so people can wander in and feel welcome
  • Ideally the layout should lend itself to cohesive book sections
  • Not all doors open inwards... but equally not all doors open out
  • There should be some interesting focal point at the back to draw folks through the shop and past shelves of lovely lovely buyable books
  • Some bookshelves are only 1 sided - a basic but easily forgettable consideration when planning little book 'islands'
  • There must be enough space (or I have to be able to clear enough space) for any book groups, signings or events I might have that involve more than two people standing back to back in an aisle
  • And finally, but very importantly, if the space available is 70cm, an 80cm bookshelf will not fit. Really.
After taking all that into account, and after working out where I went wrong when converting my imperial measurements (I'm old school) to the metric bookshelf sizes I had, I think I finally got it! Of course, there are bound to be some things I've forgotten about... and I'm sure there are some things I want to do that perhaps time or physical shop constraints might prevent...and that's presuming I got my measurements right in the first place... Well however it turns out I'll always still think of it fondly as 'THE GRAND PLAN' but perhaps I'll qualify it with a little 'draft 1' postscript for now...

Thursday, 17 January 2008

This week I have mostly been...

Working hard! So it's been almost a week since I got the keys to the shop and wrestled with the shutters for the first time. After a week of traipsing in and out at odd hours, I'm a pro at both opening and shutting them now (woo hoo!), but I get the feeling that the upstairs neighbours would appreciate them being oiled a little so I don't wake them up when I leave at night.) I've put in more than a few hours hard labour in the shop now and thankfully, had a pretty constructive week. So I thought I'd give a little update on progress in week 1. So far I've managed to...

a) clean out some junk left behind by the old owners
b) decide on a web host... I think
c) measure the place from top to bottom
d) hang some coverings in the windows so no-one can see what's going on... ooooh. Intriguing.
e) clean out more junk
f) purchase an armchair and some blinds for the door
g) hang said blind
h) learn all about sandstone walls, suspended ceilings and joists!
i) match up glass cabinet keys to locks
j) find a possible buyer for some of the glass cabinets
k) not break any glass cabinets (bonus!)
l) decide on which door handle to buy for the stockroom. Clearly a top priority.
m) get my first piece of mail addressed to the shop! Yeay!
n) enlist decorating help from a few extra pairs of hands... erm, I mean interested friends!
o) clean out more junk
p) spend a lot of money on 'shop related miscellany'
q) start a file to gather all the receipts I've collected for 'shop related miscellany'
r) contact the council to get the shop and rates bills transferred to my name
s) decide on which type of bookcases to buy
t) consume copious amounts of tea and ginger snaps
u) clean out more junk
v) not sleep much
w) update this blog (finally!)
x) clean out the last of the junk
y) work at my normal job 9-5, Monday-Friday
z) worry! A lot!

And on top of that I read a book... Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl which I'm now adding to my list of favourites - I highly recommend it if you're looking for something a bit different... it's a brilliant debut novel (and NY Times bestseller) that draws you in to the ordinary world of Blue van Meer, her father, her friends and teacher Hannah Schneider, makes you feel safe and comfortable, then with a few key events, it turns everything completely upside down... I absolutely loved it. And if you're looking to buy a copy, from March I'm fairly sure it will be available from a certain bookshop in Bo'ness!

Friday, 11 January 2008

Happy Key Day!

Well, I finally got the keys to the shop today! Woo hoo! I'm now officially a shopkeeper in the great tradition of Arkwright from 'Open All Hours', and Auntie Wainwright from 'Last of the Summer Wine'... and aptly, I probably will need to be open all hours and polishing off the last of the summer wine just to stay afloat!

Anyway, once I got the keys, I dashed round to the shop and managed to tackle the shutters, persuade the frozen locks to open and beat the alarm into submission all within the space of 20 short minutes. With the shutters in particular I eventually realised there's a knack to getting them open - you have to turn the key right, then left, then right again, jiggle them a certain way then say the magic words (most of which begin with 'F'), then give them a swift kick, and they open easily!

As evidenced in my beautifully uploaded 'Before' photo to the right (such technological wizardry!) the previous owners had cleared out all their saleable goods and left the shelving and display cabinets as agreed and a big bag of rubbish... gee thanks guys! I spent tonight going through everything (though not the rubbish) and decided what bits to keep and what I can live without. Task for tomorrow: ebay the 5 million various sized glass cabinets and empty jewellery display boxes (or perhaps I could just give away a free jewellery box with every book... hmm).

So that's the state of play as of tonight... more to follow in the next few days once the realisation of everything I still have to do kicks in!

(P.S. If the shop looks small in the picture, that's partly because it is. But once the cabinets are out and I've gone round the place with some fresh paint and installed a few book cases here and there, I think it will start to look a little more like a '3rd space' type bookstore you'd want to spend some time in, and less like an abandoned gift shop... which it sort of actually is right now.)

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Location, location, location...

I realised today that I've been a little lax so far when it comes to detailing much (or anything!) about the shop or where it is. For those who've stumbled across this blog but don't know the area, I probably should set the scene a little better by first explaining a bit about Bo'ness itself. Of course some people like to knock it (there's always one or two), but since I've settled on opening the shop here I've grown rather fond of it!

Set against a hillside, it's a small but growing town on the Firth of Forth (near Falkirk and less than an hour's drive from both Glasgow and Edinburgh). A walk up the hill gives some absolutely amazing views out over the river - I'll post pictures when I get the chance - though the wind fairly whips round it in winter! I like to think of it as the town equivalent of an independent bookshop... sure, you can go to one of the bigger cities with all their glass and chrome, discounted chain stores and shiny shiny sameness, but why? when you could go to somewhere like Bo'ness with it's independent shops, beautiful architecture and bags of individuality (a few years ago it was even ranked 3rd in a survey of British towns that had managed to retain their character).

There's a lot of building work going on in town at the moment as part of the Townscape Heritage Initiative which means parts of it don't look the greatest right now, but somewhere like the Hippodrome will be amazing once it's finished. The shop itself is on the East end corner of North and South Streets and is a 2 minute walk from Bo'ness and Kinneil Steam Railway, the foreshore and several free car parks!

OK so locating the shop in Bo'ness may initially mean less passing trade than the middle of Glasgow or Edinburgh, but importantly (to me anyway), locating there means I'll be able to develop Inkspot & Silverleaf into a proper town bookshop with a local and community focus, tailored choice of stock, and strong customer relationships - I'm really looking forward to getting started!

Oh, and of course as a book person, the other reason I love Bo'ness is the apostrophe (Bo'ness is actually short for Borrowstounness). I think I've run out of steam now, so more on the shop in a few days. I finally get the keys on Friday so I'll post more over the weekend once I've (hopefully) managed to get in and switch the alarm off!

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Engineering a Book...

I always took it for granted that books opened and closed quite happily - there doesn't seem anything particularly difficult in that. However, in an attempt at product research yesterday I set about trying to make a notebook from various reclaimed book parts, and to my horror I discovered that actually making a book that can both open and close without ripping the hardback spine apart is a feat of engineering akin to the designing of the Forth bridges! In addition to the requisite blood, sweat and tears, it took 8 hours, a couple of concertina hinges, a double spine and a scrap paper mountain the size of Ben Nevis, but I'm pleased to say that around 1am this morning I finally cracked it! And the finished product looks great! So look out for the fantastic recycled, reclaimed, handmade notebooks on sale in Inkspot & Silverleaf from Spring 2008... well, that's if I can work up the energy to make any more!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

List Mania

When Inkspot & Silverleaf opens, I resolve to hold a list slam event. As a devout list maker myself I think this is an absolutely genius idea, although I'm not sure my current to-do list would be of interest to many people... 1) Get keys to bookshop, and 2) Do everything else. OK so it needs a little work...

My First Little Blog...

Hello world! Here's my first blog. Ever. Hopefully I'll be better at writing it than I ever was at keeping diaries. They always seemed to end up as giant lists of who fancied who at school, and later turned into essays on how much I hated my career-of-the-month. I'm hoping not to fall into those obvious traps for two main reasons...

1) Practically everyone I know is happily married so any list would be a little less 'who fancies who', and a little more 'Christmas List 2008'. Marginally less scandalous I'm sure you'll agree. And... 2) I can't possibly hate my job now as I'm just about to become self employed - hating the boss is no longer an option.

Which brings me to the main point of this stream-of-conscious type rambling... I've bought a shop. An actual shop. My cunning plan is to turn it into a small independent bookstore. OK, so it's not a bookshop at the moment, and I've no experience of actually running a business, or even of working in a bookshop... but I think it can work. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

By way of a better introduction, let me first explain that the shop itself is a cute little store on the corner of North and South Streets in Bo'ness, Scotland. Currently trading as a gift shop, next week it closes it's gift-dispensing doors, and in Spring 2008 (actual opening date yet to be decided) those bookselling pixies and shopfitting elves (aka me, my family and friends... you know who you are!) will magically transform it into 'Inkspot & Silverleaf Booksellers... Purveyors of fine literature for the discerning reader'. Oh yes they will.

'The bookshop thing' as my friends like to call it, has been in the works for a while and so I felt like I was slowly getting my head around it all till I looked round today and found myself knee deep in excel spreadsheets, book catalogues and general website gubbins (URL to follow of course)... and that was after I got home from my full time day job.

Anyway, not to unburden myself on you in my first post, I'll leave this blog with the brief note that my current concerns include bookshop insurance, trying to work out which of my already chosen company colours would be better on the shop front, and whether or not domain names are transferable with my preferred web host. (I don't remember Meg Ryan facing these kinds of decisions in You've Got Mail. Perhaps it wasn't the best choice for 'research'.) And as for the actual books... well, I'll worry about that later! Ah the joys...