Updated: Mar 13, 2019
Last year Faversham hosted it's first Literary Festival. As the organisers were friends of mine we were asked if we would like to sell tickets for the event, which of course we were delighted to do. We then offered to do a window display of author's books. The books were supplied by a neighbouring bookshop 'Harbour Books' in Whitstable. We ended up having more books than we could fit in the window so we nestled the remainder amongst our stock in the shop.
I have always loved books and I have worked on a weekly basis in the antiquarian book trade for over 10 years so they have been a great part of my life. It was very exciting to have books in the shop and a new product to style amongst the other stock.
I had been wondering about a new kind of product to stock for some time and as the books began to sell and customers commented on how good they worked in the shop, a seed of an idea began to germinate.
I agonised for some months over the idea of transforming half of the shop into a bookshop. I asked myself: Did I have enough room? Would people buy the books? How would I choose them? How much would it cost? etc.
Having a degree in architecture, I am trained in drawing to scale so I went onto the Ikea website, took down the measurements of book shelving and drew up a floor plan with scaled book shelves to place on it. Yes, spatially it could work I concluded...but the cost! More agonising ensued. I was reluctant to get a loan or create a massive overdraft. By this time I had told people what I was going to do - to open a bookshop within my already established hat shop. I wanted to know what people thought. Most people were enthusiastic about the idea, some not so but by telling people I had set myself up, I had to do it.
There were a lot of things to do ........
I approached and the Book Seller's association who encouraged me with advice and support.
I set up a few trade accounts to buy stock.
I spent two weekends with Lynda who works in the shop with me, making space.
I sanded down (my son helped me) and re-painted (with a new colour and a friend) the name board above the shop.
I thought of a new name for the shop that reflected both dominant products, hats & books and ordered the new signage.
I then decided on a date to open.
Top Hat & Tales was launched on 'Bookshop Day' , it seemed an auspicious day to officially name the shop. Local Poet Lynne Powell came along and read from her book of Poetry: Songs from the Marshlands. She talked about her love of the Oare marshes and shared her worry about the proposed Solar Farm for the area and its impact on the nature and wildlife. It was lovely to see such a captive audience who had come along to listen.
The shop buzzed all day long. Lynda served everyone with Proseco and scrumptious home made cake, made by herself and Lynn. I didn't leave the til!!
In the afternoon Mark Bowsher came along to sign copies of his new book 'The Boy Who stole time'. The shop had quietened down over lunch but filled up again just before Mark began to read from his book.
He then signed copies of his book and again I didn't leave the til!
It was a great day and we were bowled over by the enthusiasm and support from everyone who joined us. Our very last customers of the day were Erica and her boyfriend. Erica manages @bookshopblogger and posted a lovely review of the 3 bookshops she visited on bookshop day. You can read it here:
Now we are a bookshop and a hat shop and it feels really good. We are still quite small but slowly and surely building up our stock and a new customer base. If you are reading this and would like to hear about our news, what we are getting up to, events etc. please join our mailing list , we look forward to meeting you in the shop.