Queues outside Edinburgh indie as The Portobello Bookshop opens doors

Queues outside Edinburgh indie as The Portobello Bookshop opens doors

Edinburgh's latest indie The Portobello Bookshop has opened its doors to the public, with customers queuing to get in on its first day of trading. 

Owner Jack Clark, who has a background in commercial photography, said he and his team have been "absolutely taken aback" by the number of customers who have called in to the Portobello High Street store, which stocks around 8,000 titles, since opening on Wednesday (24th July). 

Readings from Daniel Gray, on the joy of books and bookshops, and local resident Doug Johnstone kicked off opening night celebrations. Johnstone, who read from his new book Breakers (Orenda Books), also played a set on his guitar. 

©Paula Russell Photography

"Our opening day took us all by surprise, we opened on Wednesday morning as we thought this would give us chance to get used to running the shop before a hopefully busy weekend.  But before we raised the shutter for the first time there was already a queue outside the door, and since that opening morning we've just been busy all day everyday," said Clark. "Myself and all the staff have been absolutely taken aback by the number of customers who've called in, and how positive the reaction has been. We've had such lovely and encouraging comments from the local community, which has left us all in a really positive mood about the future.  From people talking about how much they like the feel of the space, to compliments on our opening book selection it's just been a really enjoyable experience, and confirmed to us that this was absolutely the best place to open a new independent bookshop. We're thrilled to be a part of Portobello and its thriving high street."

On the back of the success of the bookshop's first evening event on Wednesday, Clark says there are now plans for more events and live music. Clark has worked with local design team Splintr to transform the 3,000 sq ft former fishing tackle shop which now features a piano. 

Clark, who spent six months working at the Shelter bookshop in Stockbridge before opening Portobello, said: "Our opening event also went really well, with readings from Daniel Gray on the joy of books and bookshops, and a piece he wrote especially about us too, which was unexpected and very much appreciated.  Doug Johnstone, who's local to Porty, read from his new book Breakers, as well as a piece about Portobello, and played a great set on guitar.  We had a really enjoyable night and it's left us raring to put on more events.  We have a piano in the shop, so as well as book events, we're going to have some live music, and can't wait for the piano to be used for the first time." 

©Paula Russell Photography

After only a few days of trade, Clark said hardback fiction has been selling really well with good sales for Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous (Vintage), while Sweet Sorrow (Hodder) by David Nicholls has been "flying out the door" and Queenie (Orion) by Candice Carty-Williams has sold out.  

"In terms of the books we've sold, myself, our assistant manager Alice, and the rest of the staff, put a lot of time and energy into curating a selection of titles we were really proud of. We're so pleased that people seem really happy with our choices, and can't quite believe how much really interesting new hardback fiction has been selling," said Clark. "That's great for us as it means we can continue buying the books we love, or want to read, and continually working to ensure people are happy with our choices.  Portobello has a lot of people who are very politically engaged and environmentally conscious, so books about climate change, gender, and class have all been selling well."

The Portobello Bookshop, which will be posting updates on social media @PortyBooks, is the latest indie to open in Edinburgh, which boasts a lively bookshop scene - including Golden Hare, which scooped the Nibbie for Independent Bookshop of the Year in May. More than a dozen bookshops are trading across the city and Topping & Company is due to launch “the largest independent bookshop to open in the country for decades” in the city centre in September. 

Booksellers Association m.d. Meryl Halls said: "We’re delighted that The Portobello Bookshop in Edinburgh had such a successful opening day. The shop is stylish, light, airy, thoughtfully and beautifully designed, and buzzy – it was full of happy customers on Monday afternoon. Edinburgh is home to a wealth of creative and award-winning bookshops, and The Portobello Bookshop is a great addition to the bookshops of the world."