What Do You Want Most From a Bookshop?

But 90 percent of us who buy books still get out of the house and go to the bookstore, to be among the books, yes, but also to be among other book buyers, the like-minded, even if we never say a word to them. — Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

This quote reminds me of that camaraderie I felt when after hours of seeing no one along our hikes in North Yorkshire (which was also nice), my sister and I would suddenly come upon a couple or two pairs of people, socks tucked into their hiking boots, walking poles astride, breath coming in gasps from exertion, and we’d all nod to each other and smile, pushing wide our ruddy cheeks, for in that brief moment we knew we all felt the same appreciation for the daily constitutional among the misty moors and docile sheep. We were all out there because we shared a common passion, and it truly is wonderful to acknowledge and recognize that without having to say a word.

But this quote speaks of the book enthusiast. I’ve been thinking about my bookshop tearoom idea yet again and about what I want to include, or not, to make it what I look for myself (surely others feel the same?) and to make it different from the other bookstores around, a place people come to because it’s their favourite and there’s nowhere else they go that makes them feel the same cozy way.

As a bookshopper, what’s important to me is that I have space around me: not necessarily a large place but that I have personal browsing space, or at least that I feel comfortable shopping. I want to feel non-intrusive.

I want the people around me to be like-minded, if it’s not too much to ask, made possible by the particular focus and atmosphere the shop exclusively offers: friendly, welcoming, warm, cultured, enthusiastic, appreciative.

I want to be able to reach all the books. I love the look of a ladder, but how many people actually use it? Usually the books within arm’s reach are the ones most looked at. Anything higher, for me, is inconvenient.

I would like the music to be non-invasive, whether lively or subduing. I want things to be organized in a way that makes sense, though not so orderly and clean or minimal that it looks as though no one “lives” there, and to not be surrounded by tables loaded with kitschy do-dads piled willy-nilly but to find tasteful gifts (stationery, cards, and book and tea related things) available in attractive displays.

I wish not to be overwhelmed, especially if the place is smaller—yet, I want to see many books to choose from. I want the lighting to be warm but bright enough, and not too white. Basically, I want to feel as though I’m in a sacred place, a sort of haven more than a church, so not the kind of place in which you feel you cannot touch or breathe or talk; rather, the kind in which you can breathe quite deeply, sigh contentedly from happiness, hugging a book to your chest in the anticipation of making a purchase, perhaps while speaking appreciatively about it to another (it’s not going to be one of those places in which you feel you must whisper).

I do want to be able to combine my two favourite things, which are books and tea. So being able to buy a good cup of tea while book shopping is important to me. I am not the type to sit and read half a book in a shop (home is where I enjoy my books best, though I’ll bring them along with me everywhere), but if I can browse through the books I’ve picked out just to read a few passages here and there and make sure they’re what I want, and do this while sipping tea, I’d be quite happy.

I want my bookshop to be my favourite place to visit, so it has to be welcoming on a personal level, and to include small but meaningful touches that make people very happy about their purchases, such as brown paper-wrapped books, or nice bags, or receipts in little envelopes, or something. A pretty coupon for your next purchase, perhaps— things that make you feel excited about what you bought beyond what you actually bought. You know?

What do you want most from your bookshop?

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