Our search brought us all over, from Brighton to Bermondsey Street and finally to Bermondsey Square. Our journey is almost at an end now. Or perhaps, more appropriately, about to begin.
Why did we settle for Bermondsey? Well, we kinda fell for the Bermondsey Street vibe immediately. In the months we searched and checked out possibilities, we made countless trips to the area, meeting estate agents, the designers at Hampson Williams, and the proprietors of the local shops. Everyone told us wonderful stories about the sense of community to be found there.
The proprietor at Bermondsey Fayre told us about the warm welcome she had received from local residents visiting her new crafts and gifts shop. The owner of Holly & Lil invited us in for a chat even though the shop wasn't open when she caught sight of us, our faces pressed against her window, craning for a peek at a treat for our pets. She reassured us about the pet-friendly neighbourhood, a must for our poodle-pomeranian mix Matzo and our cats, Gali and Ripley. (That's Matzo and Gali in the photo above.)
Due to these lovely encounters, I think we slipped easily into 'local' mood. By visit number two, I was a certified card-carrying member; that is, a card from Coffee@Bermondsey cafe. (I've since used up all 3 cards!) Plus, the owner at Caphe House knows me on sight now and always adds extra bean sprouts to my pho noodles.
So, we finally decided on this space at the square, sandwiched between Sainsbury and Del'Aziz Restaurant, and fronted by Shortwave Cinema. We even had Patrick Neale, of the award-winning bookshop Jaffe & Neale, come to look the site over and give us his initial impressions. Positive.
So where are we at now? We are waiting to sign off on the lease as the landlords have approved our application. In the meantime, we have been busy defining and redefining what this space will offer to residents in the square and the surrounding area. What we know and want for sure is a space that builds on the existing sense of community spirit in this chic, up-and-coming, boho, rough-and-ready, edgy, diamond in the rough of an area that's a mere stone's throw away from London Bridge (whoa, I didn't realise I could pack so many adjectives into a sentence but that's how enthused we are!). In fact, Shiv's been working the phones and the emails, connecting with amazing artists and authors, sussing out possibilities for events. If you've got any cool ideas for what you would like to see, read or experience at Woolfson & Tay, write and tell us - we would love to hear from you!
So, it's all systems go. Already we are learning that there's a lot to bookselling we weren't aware of. For others who may be interested in starting their own bookshop, we recommend checking out the introductory courses at the Booksellers Association; it's quite an eye opener! Meanwhile, stay tuned as we head down the path of starting our bookshop, cafe and gallery space. - Fran
Below: A short video clip of us sussing out the site and imagining how we will use the space.