Chapter One the independent book shop in Loftus

Like many other small independent retails, we at Chapter One Loftus are preparing to open our doors again on the 12th April 2021, assuming nothing changes! We are calling this opening mark 3 given that we only opened our doors for the first time, briefly in November 2020. Today is Saturday, Easter Weekend, and it’s a now a fine balancing act and missing ordering new stock ready for reopening or ordering it only be told lock down is extended.

The High Street is a challenging place, but we had hope for our High Street in Loftus on the North Yorkshire Coast, with The Department of Communities and Local Government announcing £5.8m investment as part of its Future High Streets Fund. The concept of a Bookshop in Loftus starting at Christmas in 2019, and by March 2020, I had handed in my notice as a Hospice Chief Executive and I was sat in a training room with the team from Business Made Simple on a business start-up course recommended by Redcar and Cleveland Council.  We wanted the Bookshop to be in Loftus, it was our home, our community and we felt that an Independent Bookshop was a good fit with the other independent retailers on the High Street, which includes Wold Pottery, Willow Cake Shop and Mini Bee’s among others.  I had also been the ‘Saturday Boy’ at Guisborough Bookshop many, many years ago, so time to follow my dream.  

Three days after starting the course I was writing a business plan and all was going great until COVID-19 hit and we moved into Lockdown One. Having already handed in my notice, I joined the amazing team at Whitby Hospital as a volunteer nurse supporting the discharge of patients for a few months, before returning to work as a Nurse for NHS111covering South West London. As lockdown started to ease, I picked up the business plan again, and by chance Carole Louise Hair Salon moved from number 25 High Street to their new home in the Old Post Office in Loftus. Another meeting with the Business Made Simple team pushed me into making the decision to take on number 25. We got the keys in October 2020, and announced our opening day of Friday 6thNovember 2020, this was followed by a Government announcement of Lock Down Two starting on Thursday 5thNovember 2020. Our stock arrived on the Monday, so we opened on the Tuesday, with no internet connection (that wasn’t coming until Thursday) and I was also committed to a nightshift at NHS111 on the Tuesday night, so 48 hours without sleep! We opened our doors on the Tuesday morning, and we where blow away by the support, it was lovely to welcome customers into the shop, even if it was only for two days. The joy soon turned to tears on the Thursday as Lock Down Two started, with very little sleep and the need for an online shop I sat behind the counter and cried, I was a nurse, a 2-day year old bookseller what I was not, was a web designer. I had by chance in Lock Down One managed to somehow get myself into a Zoom meeting with a hundred or so other Booksellers and sat through a crash course in designing online Bookshops, thankfully I could understand my notes, and with some sleep within 24 hours we had an online shop, and I was out doing free home deliveries between Hinderwell and Saltburn. We continued with home delivery through click and collect until reopening in December. It was lovely to welcome customers back into the shop and we opened extra days in the run up to Christmas and were very well supported using the #shoplocal and #indieloftus campaigns which the local business ran with here in Loftus.

After Christmas we move into Lock Down Three, we like I am sure many people feel like it’s gone on forever, but our customers have moved back to online, although disappointingly the government has allowed supermarkets to continue selling books, whilst Booksellers like ourselves have remained closed as we are classed as nonessential retail.   Our customers tell us they are excited about us reopening as they are looking forward to coming back in the shop and browse the shelves in the way you just can’t do online.  During Lockdown we have increased our stock levels to well over 1000 titles now and have just order extra bookshelves, we have started to return to the shop to a bookshop rather the warehouse for our online sales.  We continue to work with the largest UK wholesaler of books to allow us to order titles that we physically can’t hold in stock and normally can get books in stock within 48 hours.  We have developed relationships with local independent authors and signed copies seem to be extremely popular with our customers as well the Indie Bookshop titles that many publishers and authors are now producing for independent bookshops like ourselves.  We have just finished our first World Book Day, and whilst sadly customers couldn’t come in the shop to exchange the tokens,we have given away over 500 of the World Book Day books.  We look forward to reopening our doors on the 12th April 2021 and welcoming our customers back to browse with extended opening hours during that first week.  

Opening Hours the week of the 12th April 2020 will be Monday to Saturday 10:00hrs to 18:00hrs. Normal Opening Hours are Wednesday to Friday 10:00hrs to 18:00hrs and Saturday’s 09:00hrs to 16:00hrs. Telephone 01287 640507 email info@chapteroneloftus.co.uk or visit www.chapteroneloftus.co.uk

Article by Chloe Tempestoso

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