Two teachers are opening a bookshop in Lincolnshire this month with plans for an accompanying outreach programme to help pupils struggling with education.
Nick Webb and Mel Philips have both taught for more than 20 years, working mostly with children with special educational needs and those in Pupil Referral Units. After years of dreaming of their own bookshop to help transform children’s lives, they have taken the plunge to open the Rabbit Hole, in Brigg, a small market town in Lincolnshire, for which illustrator Nick Sharratt designed a logo.
The couple were living in Grimsby when they started exploring possible locations for the shop. Webb told The Bookseller: “We looked at a number of towns in Lincolnshire but settled on Brigg, it seemed the right size for us as beginners to have a go. We’ve built up a relationship with another business owner who let us know about a property, where he has taken over the front part into an antique company and we have taken on the three rooms at the back.”
The “small shop”, which opens on 26th August will have stock around 6,000 books and be able to take orders from customers.
The store in Market Lane includes a front room which is 15ft by 10ft, devoted to children’s books, the middle room is 10ft by 7ft and contains adult fact fiction graphic novels and young adult books. The back room is 10ft by 6ft and is for preloved books and preloved music and vinyl.
Webb and his partner have wanted to run a bookshop for years. He said: “It’s something we’ve always thought about and wanted to do but it was the right time. We are strong believers in getting them to read, it is not just about school.
“We believe reading can influence a child’s whole life. We’ve worked with children aged 13 who have never read books. When they finally read something and say ‘that’s the first thing I’ve ever finished’ it’s an amazing feeling. They are often quite shocked when they start reading."
They hope it will become a focal point for the town which boasts 26 other independent shops. Webb told The Bookseller: “We really want to be a community bookshop so people can come in for help and advice. It will be a steep learning curve for us. We have been running a market stall in Brigg every week with brick and back and books to get a sense of what people want. People have been asking for books on a variety of subjects from chess to music and embroidery. We also had great support from fellow indie shop, The Book Case in Lowden, and our wholesalers Bertram Books.”
Webb and Phillips were also “delighted” when Nick Sharratt offered to design a special logo for the store after meeting the pair at a conference.
Webb believes it has been many decades since there was last a bookshop in Brigg. He said: “I have no idea when there was last a bookshop in the town apart from a charity bookshop. We know someone whose family has been here for three generations and they are not aware of one. People have said, ‘It’s about time we had a bookshop here’.”
Webb acknowledged it will be hard in the current climate. He said: “It is not going to be easy, the footfall is not going to be very much. We could go a week without seeing someone. It’s all come from money that we saved up – we downsized and managed to avoid loans so far but we feel we have to make it work.
“We are going to try really hard, we can’t make people buy books but we know how important reading can be. We know the difference it can make.”