I’ve only ever been to Faversham once, but I loved the market place and the quirky docks, yes docks. It always deserved a bookshop, and here we have a bookshop that tops it all…
Top Hat & Tales
110 West Street
Telephone: 01795 227071
In their own words
How did you come up with the name of your bookshop?
I already sold hats and then decided to sell books, I was attending the London Book Fair and it came in a flash: Top Hat & Tales
Who are you? Owns the bookshop?
I am a single mum, unrealised philosopher, unrealised architect, struggling retailer & unexpected successful bookseller(it seems), I love everything and realise there’s not enough time for it all, I wild swim, (in the rain if I can), cycle, read, dream and work hard to make a living.
Why a bookshop? What made you want to get into bookselling?
My hat shop was off the beaten track so I was looking for a product that wasn’t being sold elsewhere in our town, the idea of books came to mind and I took the plunge!
General background/history of the shop please
I have had the shop for 10 years and had a lot of fun selling hats. I began selling second hand goods alongside the hats but after 4 years trawling boot fairs and second hand stores I finally became straight retail complementing the hats with fair-trade clothes, accessories and gifts. In my first year of having the shop I started a Hat Festival which has become a real part of the annual community calendar.
Do you stock a variety of genres or do you specialise?
We stock a variety go genres.
Do you mainly sell new or second-hand books?
What makes your bookshop special?
You need to visit it to discover the answer to this.
What’s the hardest thing about being a bookseller?
It’s a BIG job….curating, displaying, marketing, reading, selling books…..it’s never ending!
What’s the best thing about being a bookseller?
The customers, they are so lovely, so appreciative, so are hat customers but with book customers you build relationships which you value and they return for their next book, if you hold on to your hat…..you don’t need to keep buying more!
What’s the most surprising thing about being a bookseller?
That I didn’t realise I would enjoy it so much.
What are the goals for your bookshop?
I want to expand, the plans are in place, just in the process of executing them.
Do you think owning a bookshop has changed your life? How?
It has most definitely, suddenly I am doing something that fulfills me creatively as well as intellectually, I couldn’t of hoped for such job satisfaction at this late point in my working life.
What is your preferred reading genre?
Fiction but also like books on contemporary thought.
Describe your store in three words.
Unique, quirky & fun
What book is your greatest treasure? Why?
The Paper Garden, by Molly Peacock, it is beautifully written and tells the story about a woman who found her life’s work late in life, Mary Delany became an artist at the age of 72!
What was your favourite childhood book? Why?
The Treasury of Poetry, I loved the book from a child, the illustrations and the poems, especially The Jumblies by Edward Lear.
If you could invite any author for a book signing at your shop, who would you choose?
Amor Towles, I like to meet the mind that imagined Count Rostov.
Where do you think the biggest change in book publishing will come from?
I’m really not sure.
How do you reach potential readers/customers?
My website and social media out reach.
How do you choose the books you stock?
That’s impossible to answer but partly I think about what I would like to read and what I think my customers would like to read too.
Do you have a favourite publisher? Why?
Name three books on your TBR.
Girl A by Abigail Dean, An Unquiet Heart by Martin Sixsmith and Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford
What are you reading at the moment?
Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from selling books?
That people DO read books.
What music, if any, do you play in your shop? Why?
I play a mixture of swing Jazz, folk and Americana and I often put on French Cafe music and imagine my shop is in Paris, I love it when people dance, we often do.
What is the weirdest thing a customer has ever asked for?
A packet of cigarettes!!!!
What do you get up to in a normal bookselling day?
I clean, tidy, place orders, sell, answer emails, chat to customers and occasionally fit in a dance.
What is the nicest thing a customer has ever said to you?
‘You have a lovely shop, whoever chooses the books has got it just right’.