Bear Bookshop, Smethwick
Bear Bookshop, Smethwick, a lovely little children’s specialist near Birmingham.
It’s always nice to see a children’s book specialist, a beautiful place for story times and other activities.
588 Bearwood Rd
Telephone: 0121 794 1959
In their own words
How did you come up with the name of your bookshop?
The shop is named after the local area-Bearwood. (It is even situated on the Bearwood Road) It is where I live and I love it; there is such a strong sense of community here-more so than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I wanted the name of the shop to have a strong sense of the identity of the area, and always planned it to be a very community focused business.
Who are you? Owns the bookshop? Bit of a bio and pics, please
My name is Jenny, I am a mum of 3, I was an English teacher for 15 years before opening a bookshop.
Why a bookshop? What made you want to get into bookselling?
It was always a dream for me! And after having my third baby, and with my eldest starting school, I wanted to do something a little closer to home and that my own family could be more involved in. I have always LOVED reading and passionately believe that encouraging your child to be a reader is the best thing you can do for them academically and in terms of their well-being. It’s also something that is so universal and accessible, it doesn’t cost much money, it doesn’t take up much space or time.
General background/history of the shop please
The shop had lain empty for a few years, but prior to this it was also a bookshop! It is near to some amazing local cafes and both Lightwoods Park and Warley Woods, so it’s somewhere you could come and spend some time with your family, rather than just offering a retail transaction.
Do you stock a variety of genres or do you specialise?
We specialise in children’s books.
Do you mainly sell new or second-hand books?
What makes your bookshop special?
We have a really diverse range of titles. Being just outside of Birmingham, I wanted the books we stock to be reflective of our community. We are also the only specialist children’s bookshop in the area.
What’s the hardest thing about being a bookseller?
At the moment, I am The Bear Bookshop’s only member of staff, so definitely juggling all the roles needed to run a business. It’s also my first business so it’s been a steep learning curve!
What’s the best thing about being a bookseller?
Helping people find something they really love!
What’s the most surprising thing about being a bookseller?
How little time I get to read!
What are the goals for your bookshop?
When the restrictions are lifted, I want it to be a really busy and thriving place for people to bring their children. Lots of story times, activities and groups for local people to access.
Do you think owning a bookshop has changed your life? How?
Definitely for the better! Even though I’m always working, it never feels like work!
What book do you wish would sell better?
The books for older children-we have some great teenage fiction. And poetry! I think everyone should read more poetry.
What is your preferred reading genre?
Fiction. I love the escapism of a good story, especially now.
Describe your store in three words.
Creative, inquisitive, friendly
What book is your greatest treasure? Why?
I have a copy of ‘Peepo’ that was one of the first presents for my daughter when she was born, and is my baby’s favourite at the moment-we must read it 4 or 5 bedtimes a week. It’s been through 3 children now so it’s a been knocked about a bit, but that makes me love it even more.
What was your favourite childhood book? Why?
It’s very hard to choose. I remember reading all of Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl etc in my childhood in the 80s. I’ve really enjoyed revisiting some old favourites with my own children too-they all had ‘The Just So Stories’ and ‘Winnie the Pooh’ when they were tiny babies. And I have a sister who is ten years younger than me, so I’ve also loved reading the same books I used to read to her-Can’t You Sleep Little Bear, and the Winnie the Witch books.
How do you reach potential readers/customers?
We use social media but most of our customers are people who are local to the area.
How do you choose the books you stock?
I look for the books I would love to read, I choose books my own children have loved, books I see other people reading-so many ways!
Do you have a favourite publisher? Why?
I love Flying Eye books, they are always so beautiful.
What are you reading at the moment?
Where the Crawdad’s Sing
What do you get up to in a normal bookselling day?
Due to the pandemic, I don’t think I’ve even got to have a ‘normal bookselling day’ yet When we were open, I would spend some of my day looking at books I might like to stock, I would TRY to read some of the stock we already had, take photos for social media…And talking with customers about what they wanted, particularly as it was getting close to Christmas. In lockdown, I’ve had to juggle the work in the shop with home-schooling, so have really focused on processing the orders we have had and getting ready to re-open.
What is the nicest thing a customer has ever said to you?
When we were open, so many people said how happy they were that we had opened, and every time I hear it just makes me so happy! Also whenever people compliment the selection of books we have; because I personally chose them all that always feels like a very personal compliment.
If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.
You can always email me on email@example.com with any suggestions.