The Torbay Bookshop in Paignton is to close its doors for the last time in August after 23 years of trade.
Owners Sarah and Matthew Clarke put the shop up for sale in September after two decades, but have decided to close the shop after failing to find a buyer.
Matthew Clarke said he was unsure as to why there were no takers for the profitable business. "There’s probably a list of 30 reasons people won’t buy, but that’s not helpful", he said. "We’ve been profitable so that’s not the reason... It’s got to do with the state of the country, bookselling, retailing, parking charges in town. There isn’t [just] one reason."
Clarke started his career in books working as an "office boy" for publisher Mitchell Beazley, and rose through the ranks to become sales and marketing director for many publishing houses. Meanwhile, Sarah Clarke began her publishing career at Oxford University Press and became one of the country’s first female sales representatives.
Family friend Sir Patrick Moore officially opened the original shop on 22nd November 1993 (pictured right), while the current iteration of the shop was officially opened in 2002 by author Dick Francis (pictured below). Over the years numerous celebrities and authors have passed through its doors including Norman Wisdom, Harry Secombe, Jacqueline Wilson, Brian May and Alan Titchmarsh. The largest attendance was for travel writer Francesco Da Mosto who had book buyers queuing round the block to have their books signed. The shop took in just under £10,000 for this signing session, remembered Clarke.
In 2006 the shop was awarded Independent Bookseller of the Year, and having diversified by adding a Thornton’s franchise, the shop won Franchise of the Year after only two years of trading. In April 2013, the store became The Visitor Information Point for Paignton.
Matthew Clarke said: "After nearly 24 years, we are closing our doors. We have loved being part of your lives. It is sad we have been unable to find a buyer for our profitable business. However the time has now come for Sarah and I to have the opportunity to do something different whilst we are still able. As we own the building, our main priority at the moment is to find a new tenant for the shop which hopefully will add to Paignton’s retail offer. As with many independent bookshop owners, being involved with the community plays a big part in the shop’s success. My involvement in Rotary, The Palace Theatre, and The Community Partnership will continue as we plan to stay living in Paignton."
Discussing his thoughts on the future of independent bookselling, Matthew Clarke, added: "The trouble is we often talk about indie bookselling and publishing in a vacuum, but the actual question we should be asking ourselves is what’s going to happen with high street retail – it doesn’t matter if it’s a bookshop or a shoe shop. We haven't reached the bottom [regarding the fate of the High Street] yet, but we need to drive home the point that the internet is not the best place to find something - that's the appeal of the bookseller. [Physical shops] facilitate adventure, excitement, discovery... people haven't fully woken up to [the potential] of that."
The shop's last day will be 31st August 2017.