Tina Gaisford-Waller has joined the Winstone’s team as manager of its Frome store, Hunting Raven Books, in Somerset.
Formerly publicity and marketing consultant for Chicken House, she hopes to bring her “energy, enthusiasm and creative flair” to attract customers as well as touring authors, with a special focus on boosting the events programme.
The 11,000 sq ft store has been a feature in Gaisford-Waller's life since her childhood when she grew up in Frome. She takes over from long-time manager Karin Campagna, almost two years after Wayne Winstone bought the store, the third outlet in his mini-chain of bookshops in the south-west of England.
Gaisford-Waller trained as an actress in Guilford and spent a few years in London before spending four years working for Chicken House until 2010. She initially worked part-time at the children’s publisher and did occasional shifts in the bookshop before going full-time at Chicken House, followed by a stint in NHS communications.
She told The Bookseller: “Living in a place like Frome – the arts are really strong, so the opportunity of being a manager of a bookshop comes up once every fifteen or twenty years or so. I jumped at the chance. I grew up in Frome and it’s where I bought my student books – it has been a thread through my life."
Gaisford-Waller is pleased to see that smaller bookshops appear to be bouncing back from a spate of closures with Hunting Raven recently shortlisted for this year’s British Book Awards' Independent Bookshop of the Year for the South-West England region.
"A few years ago independent bookshops were going through a really difficult period when lots were closing," she said. "It is no surprise this shop has stayed open because there has always been a bit of magic about it.
“I jumped from publishing when it was having a difficult time and then the NHS is now having the biggest struggles in its history, so I’m used to choppy waters. Working in these two jobs is the same sort of the thing in a way because you’re working on what is important to people.”
Gaisford-Waller said she is looking forward to “being a books detective again” by helping track down titles based on scant or cryptic details from customers. She does not plan to drastically alter the stock because she said it is one of the shop’s biggest strengths - it stocks 15,000 titles along with a range of gifts and stationery -but is keen to plan more events with authors.
“We want to boost the events programme,” she said. “I want to link more closely with the events that happen in town, such as the monthly market. A lot of authors don’t want to go any further than Bath but we are only 20 miles away. We want to be a hub… we are a town which punches above its weight.”
She also called for smaller publishing houses to get in touch because she is seeking “hidden gems” to stock and described how success in publishing “is all about your network and the opportunities that opens up”.
Winstone bought the store for an undisclosed sum from John and Caroline Birkett-Smith who were retiring after 16 years.
Gaisford-Waller will be in post from 21st May and can be contacted on Winstonebooks3@gmail.com.