How did the shop come about?
Ric worked for the previous owners, Alan and Jennifer Shelley, for 12 years before we took over. I had been working for the London bookseller Robert Frew for 14 years. We were introduced by Alan at a book fair in California in 2001 and, being of similar age and having similar interests, became friends. When the business came up for sale it seemed like the most obvious thing to have a go.
How did you come to operate from your current location?
The bookshop was founded in 1964 and was located right at the top of the High Street. Alan and Jenny moved the business down to its more central location in the early 1990s. We are right by Lewes Castle, not far from the railway station and there are cafes and other attractions nearby bringing people in.
Given an unlimited budget what is the one change you would make to the shop?
Much as I like our premises, I’d love to buy a place on the other side of the street. We get sun through our shop window at certain times a year, which means we have to cover up the books for some hours each day for fear of fading to the covers.
Why visit a shop rather than a website?
You can’t beat seeing the books first-hand. As much as we all buy things off the internet, you really need to handle a book to appreciate its finer points and condition. Furthermore, there are any number of books that never make it on to the website. We regularly offer new acquisitions to customers who have previously expressed an interest and sometimes an item barely touches the ground before we have sold it. So, get to know your bookseller!
What is the biggest challenge of running a shop?
Rent and rates could always come down, but we aren’t presented with any huge challenges. Being a partnership makes it a lot easier. We can both buy and sell, which means we can both have time off and, also, share the more mundane jobs such as VAT returns and monthly PAYE submissions.
Bow Windows Bookshop, 175 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 1YE