Bookspot of the Week: Books on the Hill

For this week’s bookspot, we spoke with Antonia, the manager of Books on the Hill all the way in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, UK!

Bookspot / Libraries
Books on the Hill featured image

Welcome back to your favorite time of the week! For today’s bookspot, we spoke with Antonia, the manager of Books on the Hill all the way in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, UK! This mother-daughter run bookstore is complete with vintage books, a cosy fireplace, and Scottish poetry. 

 

How did your bookstore transition from concept to reality?

My mum Clare fell in love with a bookshop for sale in Fowey, Cornwall, whilst on holiday. She had always dreamed of running her own, yet being so far from home she knew she couldn’t take it on. So she decided to look around at spaces closer to home and found that St. Albans had no independent bookshops, so decided to change that. She asked me to help with setting up the bookshop, as she had found a space that would work. So together we started to get the store together, Mum curating the shop and myself running the events with a team of fantastic booksellers by our side.

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What do you feel is unique to your bookstore?

By offering vintage and antiquarian books, as well as new books, we feel we have a selection of books that you wouldn’t typically find at your local bookshop. Also, with a cosy place by the fire to read, the shop becomes a sanctuary away from busy city life.

 

If you had infinite space, what might you add to the store?

We would love to extend some of our categories such as graphic novels as there are some incredible illustrations that prove to be pieces of art in their own right. We would also love to have a vegan café upstairs with more space to hold events and workshops and enjoy a good cuppa.

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What does your store offer that a chain or online retailer can’t?

We take customer orders for new and vintage books so we can try to find the books you require.

 

Do you hand-pick your staff to create a specific environment? 

Our staff approached us before we opened and we chose to hire them because of their enthusiasm for bookselling and their unique interests in areas such as translation works or the latest publications.

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How else do you create a welcoming environment?

We provide a series of events which are tailored to welcoming the whole community into the store. To celebrate our opening we held a Burns day celebration with bag pipes and a morning of Scottish poetry, in collaboration with our local poetry society, which seemed to put a smile of our customers faces. 

 

What about your store do you think appeals to your neighborhood?

We like to engage with our surrounding communities, which helps people to feel welcome when they come into the store.

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Do you have any staff picks or releases we should watch out for?

Our new website will be going live soon which we will be regularly updating with staff recommendations and our latest releases. A few staff recommendations would be: Mrs Dalaway by Virginia Woolf, On the Marsh by Simon Barnes, No Name by Wilkie Collins, Beloved by Toni Morrison, Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, and Kudos by Rachel Kusk.

 

Do you tailor your inventory according to your community? 

For our new books we try to choose books that we feel deserve their place on the shelves. Whether the books is the latest publication or is an incredible translated work from an independent publisher, every book has been chosen because we feel their story deserves to be in our store. For our vintage books we get these given to us and the experience is very similar to Christmas day…We open the box and find treasures await us inside.

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Is there anything else that you’d like our audience to know?

We are new to the game of bookselling but we are enjoying the positive community which surrounds us and hope to be here for years to come. 

For more bookish content, be sure to check out @booksonthehillstalbans on Instagram. Do you know of a book shop worthy of a spotlight on our site? Contact us through any of our socials and you may just find it here next week.

Featured image via books on the hill