Quinns Bookshop is an award-winning independent bookshop situated in the heart of Market Harborough in Leicestershire. It’s is down one of the market town’s old lanes with an inviting entrance, looking forward to visiting.
In their own words
How did you come up with the name of your bookshop?
Our shop was originally owned by Kevin Quinn; father of GBBO winner Frances Quinn, which is where it got its name! Whilst they no longer own the business, the shop name has continued and the Quinn family are still customers.
Do you stock a variety of genres or do you specialise?
We stock a variety of genres across fiction, non-fiction, adult’s and children’s books. I think my favourite section is the children’s because the books are all so vibrant and exciting, and I’m a big kid at heart! Until very recently we didn’t have a manga or sci-fi section, but we sell Warhammer too and I felt these genres would appeal to our current customers, so I begged the owner nicely and now we do! And I’m pleased to say they’re selling well.
What makes your bookshop special?
We are tucked away down a little cobbled side alley into one of Market Harborough’s characteristic yards, which makes us a peaceful shop off the beaten track, and adds to our quirkiness. As my friend’s son beautifully put it, “It’s like you’re in Harry Potter!”
What’s the hardest thing about being a bookseller?
Having a customer come back and tell you they hated one of your favourite books!
What’s the best thing about being a bookseller?
Helping someone to find their new favourite book, or something that helps them through a difficult time, whether that’s with information to support them or good old fashioned escapism in a novel.
What’s the most surprising thing about being a bookseller?
The deep connection you make with some of your customers. I’ve worked in different types of retail and there’s nothing quite like ‘talking books’ to reveal someone’s personality and bare their soul to you rather rapidly.
Describe your store in three words.
Small but mighty
How do you choose the books you stock?
A lot of the time it’s simply a case of “ooh that looks interesting!” whilst flicking through the various buyers catalogues! I think you also get a feel for your customer base and will see books as you’re browsing and think “Mr xxx would love that!” or “Mrs xxx will be so thrilled that author has a new book coming out!” To summarise, it’s a mixture of what I’d like to read, and what I know our customers enjoy reading. With us being in such a rural area anything nature or farming related always goes down a storm!
Do you have a favourite publisher? Why?
You shouldn’t have favourites but YES! I LOVE Nosy Crow – their children’s chapter books are usually fantastic stories and full of substance with important themes and messages, and their younger children’s books are so colourful and exciting! It’s always an expensive publisher rep chat though because I end up buying half their catalogue for my daughters!
Name three books on your TBR.
Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald (I bought this from Southwold books when I visited recently – lovely shop, would highly recommend) and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (I’m rereading this because I read it over ten years ago and loved it, now it’s been chosen by the bookclub I attend so I need a refresher).
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from selling books?
That you can never underestimate how much a story can impact someone’s life. They’re powerful things, books.
What is the weirdest thing a customer has ever asked for?
It was when I worked for a previous bookshop chain which has since closed down – we had a customer looking for travel plugs; the sort you take to Europe so that British plugs work in European plug sockets!
What do you get up to in a normal bookselling day?
Chatting to customers mainly! Ordering books, drinking tea, ordering some more books, eating my lunch too early because I have no restraint, replying to emails, drinking some more tea, alphabetising the books, drinking more tea, scanning deliveries in, debating for half an hour over which books make the cut for the new paperback table, drinking more tea, changing my mind about which books to put on the new paperback table and rearranging it, emptying the bins, locking up and going home to drink more tea!
What is the nicest thing a customer has ever said to you?
“Your shop is well curated”. They’ll never realise what a spirit-lifting, confidence boosting compliment that was. When I was a teenager I wanted to be an art gallery curator and for one reason or another that dream fell through. I went into retail (stacking shelves in a supermarket at the time), and it never occurred to me that it would lead onto me still being a curator of sorts in later life. Books suit me better than art anyway, so it’s all come good in the end!
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