Former Review Bookshop manager Katia Wengraf has raised more than £10,000 online to help fund her new independent store, Mount Florida Books, in a former tattoo parlour in Glasgow.
Wengraf recently moved to Glasgow, following an eight-year stint at the Review Bookshop in Peckham, and found new premises at 272 Bath Street.
She is aiming to raise £15,000 and has already raised more than £10,000 in the last few weeks through IndieGoGo. The campaign features various pledge prizes including signed copies and events, running until 24th June. Wengraf hopes to open the space on 1st July.
“I wanted to use everything I learned in my time at Review to build a different type of bookshop,” she said. “Mount Florida Books is just that; a bookshop that reinvests profits and resources into literacy and literary projects in Glasgow, and reports every year on its impact.”
Some of her plans include investing in school libraries, working alongside prison charities to provide incarcerated people with access to books and providing adult learners with a space to showcase their writing. She is looking for partners in Glasgow to help her begin developing these and other projects and is keen for interested parties to contact her.
The crowdfunded money will enable a widening of the front door to provide wheelchair access, a levelling of the shop floor to remove unnecessary steps and removing an internal wall to create a community events space.
Wengraf told The Bookseller how she was inspired to make the move following some soul-searching during furlough. She said: “Scotland has always been the goal for me and I love Glasgow. I think being on furlough last year gave me a chance to think about what I wanted from life. Now I’ve moved here I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. It’s wonderful.”
She added: “On my first week here my friend Chris took me on a long walk all around different areas in the Southside and that’s when we found the shop. Prior to the bookshop there was a tattoo artist called Zaz here for about 10 years. He still lives in the area and drives a reportedly huge Harley Davidson so I’m looking forward to meeting him. Before that it was a tailors for a long time. It’s probably about half an hour walk to the next bookshop.”
The fundraiser came from a spur-of-the-moment decision to buy the shop. “I honestly didn’t expect to be setting up a bookshop so quickly after moving here so didn’t have all the money to get it going but Mount Florida was just such a perfect spot, even in lockdown it had seriously good vibes so I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity. I decided to crowdfund because I’d seen other shops had some success with this and it’s also a great way of letting people know the shop is coming and getting them excited.”
The store will include a broad range of titles without a particular focus. “I want everyone in the area to be able to pop in and find something that’s right for them so we’ll be stocking a little bit of the best of everything.” Initially the 395 sq ft shop will stock around 330 books but she hopes to quickly expand to around 2,000 titles.
“I really admire what Roz [Simpson, owner] built at Review Bookshop,” Wengraf said. “She has great taste in literary fiction and also recognised that an area is made up of lots of different people and communities with varied interests. I want to replicate that experience at Mount Florida Books. I definitely want to have events once we’re up and running but I don’t think we’ll be able to have an opening party for a while given ongoing restrictions.”
She hopes the store will complement the surrounding literary culture. “There’s an incredible literary scene in the Southside with loads of writers, indie publishers, micro presses, as well as some phenomenal bookshops already. I’m really looking forward to the legendary Category Is reopening and I went into Outwith Books and Burning House last week and they both have incredibly well thought out selections. We’re on the same road as the Glasgow Zine Library too. There’s just a lot of great things happening here.”
Wengraf has been delighted by the trade’s reaction to plans. “The response has been overwhelming and deeply humbling,” she told The Bookseller. “I’m so grateful to everyone who’s spread the word and supported the project. I’m actually blown away by the response. People have been so kind and it’s given me a lot more confidence that MF Books is something the area wants too. “
The crowdfunder, Make Florida Books Happen, runs until 25th June.
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