A new bookshop has been opened in Farnham, Surrey, as a “gift” to say thank you to the town.
The 1,000 sq ft Blue Bear Bookshop, containing around 4,500 books, opened on 16th November in a former cosmetics store which had lain empty for several years.
It was set up by Sylvia Schüller and her husband Nils, who moved to Farnham when their autistic son Cameron, 20, decided to go to university there.
She said: “Cameron couldn’t come to the university by himself so my husband and I moved here. The best idea I came up with was to set up a bookshop which would mean we were tied down to the place for 10 years.”
“I wanted to give the town and it’s people a gift,” she said. “This sounds a little bit romantic I know, but if not for being here with these people my son wouldn’t have started to gain his independence. Because this town has given him wings, he’s been able to grow and do things we never thought he’d be able to. I wanted to say thank you.”
The couple previously worked for a TV and film set design firm and she said they immediately had a “vision” for how they wanted the store to look.
She admitted: “Nothing prepares you for this. I think it’s one of the most challenging things that I’ve done personally and it’s a huge work in progress. But people have been extremely welcoming.”
Alongside the bookshop, part of the space is given over to a café, with a 3 metre-long communal table and chairs running through the centre. There is also an area to play board games in the basement and the shop is dog friendly, with a section dedicated to canines in books.
She said: “People can have coffee and tea, some cake and read a book or chat with somebody who comes in. I wanted people to talk with each other, a little more than just a hello. I thought this would create that environment.”
Helped by assistant manager Lesley Hodgson, who used to work for PRH and is now a freelance picture editor, the store has had a steady stream of customers through the door in its first week.
Sylvia Schüller said: “We’ve had people come in not just to buy a book but to say thank you and to welcome us. They come in with big smiles all round and say ‘this is amazing’. That really makes me very happy.”