I’ve always thought it was incredibly brave to open up a bookshop considering all the difficulties inherent in the business, but Kate and Ralph have decided to open one in hard mode in the middle of the first lockdown of 2020.
It’s been a while since I visited Blairgowrie (198… ok let’s just leave that) but a bookshop is always a great excuse to return to a town.
Adventure into Books
Telephone: 01250 872852
In their own words
How did you come up with the name of your bookshop?
Adventure into books: It had to say ‘books’ and describe the feeling of choosing and reading a book – also helps on listings that it starts with ‘A’.
Who are you? Owns the bookshop? Bit of a bio and pics, please
I’m Kate (Kate Davies), and I own the bookshop, which I run with the help of my husband, Ralph Baillie. I had long held a thought to open a bookshop, and when I found myself in the lovely Perthshire town of Blairgowrie, I reckoned it was time to make that idea a reality. The golden thread for me is words: always a lover of books, I ran a school magazine, then built a career around writing (for businesses), and am now delighted to be bringing words to other people. (My brother warned me that I did actually have to sell the books in my shop – not just read them myself)
General background/history of the shop please
We opened on 2 July 2020. An interesting year to learn a whole new trade. But we enjoyed and survived our first 6 months, and we’re looking forward to celebrating our first birthday in the summer!
Do you stock a variety of genres or do you specialise?
We try to have something for everyone, but as we’re fairly small the focus is on children, fiction (general, crime/thriller, sci-fi/fantasy, classics, poetry), local (fiction and non-fiction: histories, maps, walking etc), and non-fiction (big emphasis on histories, biographies, through to the natural world). We try to make sure we have a good selection of Scottish books – local authors, books set in Scotland etc.
Do you mainly sell new or second-hand books?
What makes your bookshop special?
It’s early days, but the bookshop complements the town. There are lots of bibliophiles in the area: we have a great literary festival (in normal times), a community-run second-hand bookshop, a good library, and a Christian bookshop. And it is a town with schools, lots of independent shops, a thriving sense of community and (usually) a good flow of visitors – we seek to support all of this. We see ourselves as a service.
What’s the hardest thing about being a bookseller?
Juggling all the things that need to be done and trying to find time to read books.
What’s the best thing about being a bookseller?
People – we get to help people looking for that special gift, we get to share special moments like the arrival of a first grandchild, and for many of the books we sell, we get a story in return. Joy.
What’s the most surprising thing about being a bookseller?
People – from all walks of life.
What are the goals for your bookshop?
To spread words and contribute to the town.
Do you think owning a bookshop has changed your life? How?
I’ve become way more sociable! Which is saying something in a pandemic year.
What book do you wish would sell better?
My husband would say David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet – very well written and an essential message.
I would say Along The Amber Route by CJ Schuler – not so much for teaching me about amber, but for teaching me about the changing nature of borders and challenging our concept of ‘country’.
What little-known book do you think is underrated?
It’s not underrated (I’ve only ever had good feedback on it), but I would love more people to know about Threads of Life by Clare Hunter. A fascinating history of textiles and sewing and the cultural and economic importance this has played through the years.
What well-known book do you think is overrated?
Shuggie Bain – way too long and repetitive. There is a story arc in it but it just gets lost.
What is your preferred reading genre?
Describe your store in three words.
Light, bright, welcoming.
What book is your greatest treasure? Why?
I have too many ‘treasures’ (just had to buy another bookcase at home)– but the one that gets most work is my Thesaurus. It’s helped me earn a living as a writer.
What was your favourite childhood book? Why?
Heidi – scary in its uncertainty then comforting.
If you could invite any author for a book signing at your shop, who would you choose?
David Attenborough and Rachel Joyce (loved her book ‘Miss Benson’s Beetle’)
Where do you think the biggest change in book publishing will come from?
Diversity of voice – race, gender, age and background.
Diversity of format – printed books, graphics, audio, ebooks ….. virtual reality?
How do you reach potential readers/customers?
Shop window works amazingly well; but also Facebook and Instagram (working up to Twitter), our website, the town website, the local papers and the local quarterly Hub magazine. We’ve also taken orders while out walking on a Sunday in the local woods….
How do you choose the books you stock?
Mixture of what’s selling well, our customer mix, recommendations, press blurb, gut instinct.
Do you have a favourite publisher? Why?
Just getting to know them; but do love our local Perth publisher – Tippermuir Books. Not mainstream, but a delight to work with.
Name three books on your TBR.
Olive Again; The Boundless Sea; The Evening and the Morning
What are you reading at the moment?
Just finished Fragile Monsters (Catherine Menon) – good book for a book club; now starting into Girl A.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from selling books?
I learn something every day and hope I continue to do so.
What music, if any, do you play in your shop? Why?
We don’t. It would be jazz if we did…. But that’s too distracting.
What is the best book-related gift you’ve ever received?
A badge depicting books, which a friend gave me when we opened the shop, and a book-festooned cushion made by my business mentor (and quilter), again for our opening.
What is the weirdest thing a customer has ever asked for?
‘Do you know where I can get a mouse trap?’ Or, more related ‘could you find me a book about Welsh copper mining and slavery in the 16th century?’ – we did! Two of them!
What do you get up to in a normal bookselling day?
A bit of everything: chatting with customers, selling books, ordering books, paying bills, posting something on FB, speaking with publishers, speaking with the local paper, updating the websites, making decorations for the next window display….
What is the nicest thing a customer has ever said to you?
That they love our bookshop and can they distribute some our catalogues so their friends know about us!