Welcome to Bookshop on the Corner, our new blog giving a behind the scenes view of life in an independent children's bookshop.
How did you find Jacqson Diego Story Emporium? Have you discovered our lovely bricks-and mortar bookshop (yes, that’s still a thing!) in the heart of Westcliff? Did you hear of us when someone shared one of the many events that we do? Have you seen us selling books at an author visit at a local school, sharing stories with children at Southend Hospital, curating our own stage at Village Green? Maybe you only know us in the posts that a friend has shared, or through photos of lots of lovely books online. However you met us, hello and welcome.
A quick introduction. I’m Vida, I manage the shop, read stories, create window displays and sell books. Although I can sometimes be lured away, the bookshop is where I spend most of my time. This is where most of the blog posts will originate, among the books.
We’ve been in our new home here for a year now, opening our doors on the 25th October 2018. A year anniversary seemed a good time to reflect and take stock, before the Christmas rush takes over. Jacqui collected the keys on 28th September, so we had less than a month to transform a completely empty and very grey space into a magical, book-filled place of wonder and stories.
I doubt it will ever be finished. There’s not a week that one of us doesn’t say “I was just wondering - do you think we should move that bookcase/add more shelves/create a new area for another genre”. Staff and customers alike get used to coming in to find things in completely different places. It probably doesn’t help that we haven’t quite worked out our labelling system yet (we will, I promise!)
Before and After - September 2018 & November 2019
The building itself has a varied history. It was once a bank, which has given us our beautiful high windows and very heavy doors. Its time as the home of BBC Radio Essex left behind numerous phone connections and BBC ephemera.
We have added shelves, gorgeous wallpaper and oh so many books! As an indie, we choose all the books on our shelves, and we love being able to find just the right book for each child. The books, after all, are why we are here. If you’ve ever been into the shop when we’ve just had a delivery, you’re likely to find us delving excitedly into boxes, to see which treasures have arrived. You may even catch us stroking a particularly beautiful book. (Ok, I’ll admit that that’s mostly me)
Over the past year we have also accumulated a wonderfully eclectic group of staff and volunteers, who I’m sure I’ll mention more in future blogs. We’ve welcomed back customers from our previous shop on Hamlet Court Road, and met so many new people who have become part of our story. This year has been a joy, and I look forward to sharing stories with you all.
One strange feature of the bookshop is that, whenever we add new shelves, the shop appears bigger. One customer actually commented the other day “it’s so much bigger on the inside”. So do we have our very own Tardis in Westcliff? Or, my personal preference, are we developing a link to L-space, a gateway to literary hyperspace? As the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett once said “a good bookshop is just a genteel black hole that knows how to read”. So I suppose we will just keep adding more shelves and more books, and wait to see what happens.