The Harbour Bookshop may be saved

The Harbour Bookshop may be saved

A bookshop founded by A A Milne's son may be saved from closure as the owners enter tentative talks with new buyers.

The Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth was opened 60 years ago by Christopher Robin Milne, the inspiration for his father's famous Winnie-The Pooh stories, but its present owners Rowland and Caroline Abram are being forced to close the shop due to poor sales and rising rates and rents.

Since news of the bookshop's closure was revealed last week, it has received widespread press coverage in regional and national media, with TV presenter Jonathan Dimbleby even adding his voice to those saddened by its demise.

Rowland Abram told The Bookseller he has had interest from more than one buyer and has had a discussion with the heritage group Dartmouth and Kingswear Society, which wants to preserve the bookshop.

Dr John Baldock, chairman of the society, told the Dartmouth Chronicle: "There is a strong case to be made for the retention of this very special shop in Dartmouth, for it is not just any bookshop.

"[The] visitors spend time and money in Dartmouth. It helps put the town on the map and contributes to its economy. There may be scope for it to be run as a community bookshop, on non-commercial lines, perhaps as a trust."

Abram would not reveal who else he had been in talks with, but said he would support anyone who wanted to try and keep the bookshop open.

He said: "I would love somebody to continue it. I would give them all the possible help I could to get it going. Caroline and I have 80 years of book trade experience behind us, if we can't keep it going I don't think anyone else could unless they have got a lot of money."

Harbour Bookshop is the only bookshop in Dartmouth. Abram said a rise in people owning second homes in the Devon town had affected book sales, because the population wasn't stable or constant. He also said he believed indie bookshops had not been supported by publishers, which he said offer better margins to bigger sellers at the expense of smaller businesses.