An independent bookshop has opened in Halifax in a 240-year-old cloth trading hall, the city’s first dedicated bookstore for four years.
Kate Claughan, who also co-owns The Book Case in Hebden Bridge, revealed that her new store shifted 10% of stock on the opening day.
The new shop is based in the Grade I listed Piece Hall, which was built in 1779 and is the sole survivor of the great eighteenth century northern cloth halls. It is one of the many new units in the hall which has recently undergone a £19 million revamp. The hall, once at the centre of a global woollen trade, was reopened in August and can hold around 7,500 people.
Claughan dismantled the original archway in the 900 square foot space so that the shop now comprises two units of equal space with 1,000 books altogether: Bookworms specialises in an “exclusive space” for children, featuring first board books through to teen titles, while at the other end The Book Corner hosts a mix of general fiction, non-fiction and stationery products.
She revealed that the atmosphere and heritage of the “hugely important building” helped her decide to open a shop there.
“It was a really quick decision. As soon as I went into the space and saw the amazing work that charity, The Piece Hall Trust was doing, I wanted to be involved," said Claughan.
“It became a shopping arcade in the 1980s and fell into disrepair before shutting down three years ago. There is also Halifax Library which is part of the same centre. Now the Piece Hall Trust is building Halifax into a cultural centre.”
On the opening day, 30th September, Claughan and her team around 10% of the stock, with it going “better than ever could have expected in fact”. The shop opened four years after the town’s last dedicated bookshop closed.
She said: “People are really glad that there is a bookshop in Halifax now. The last one, Fred Wade, was a bit of an institution but closed down in 2013 after 53 years, when the owner retired.”
Claughan, who describes herself as ‘senior director’ of the store revealed that she will focus on less stock, with higher production values.
She told The Bookseller: “It is mostly a gift shop and has a different feel to the Hebden Bridge store. We are not buying as much ‘cool stock’ here, everything has to earn its place, otherwise we can order it in for the next day. The stock is more forward-facing with more promotion on individual books with beautiful editions.”
The dedicated children’s section, Book Worms, unit has proved particularly popular and it is hoped that the store will become a regular fixture for nearby residents.
Claughan said: “I overheard someone saying to his partner: ‘We can bring the kids here each week and they can choose a book’ and that is exactly how I had envisaged it.”
Claughan revealed that she recruited the staff through social media with a former manager of Stoke Newington Bookshop joining as part of a move up north, as well as an illustrator who has joined the team and will paint designs on the Book Worms' walls.
However Claughan is anxious not to become complacent about her other outlet in Hebden Bridge, severely damaged by the 2015 floods, before a host of publishers and authors stepped in to help. She said that “rather than worrying about the second store failing, I am more worried about taking my eye off the ball with the first shop”. She added: “I don’t want to let my customers down.”
It is hoped that the shop will host run book clubs, writers’ workshops and children’s events in the coming months.