A bookshop isn’t just a bookshop, it’s a social hub. Somewhere you can step into a literary sensory oasis, soak up the contemporary and sometimes, centuries old works, along with the well documented and delicious aroma of the vanillin in the old tomes.
Kate Harris started selling books back in 1999 after a career in hotel management. She served her apprenticeship in Hammicks, Ottakars, Waterstones and the award winning independent bookshop – Much Ado Books in Alfriston, East Sussex. “Then I felt it was time to see MY name above the door”. It was inevitable really, her father was a GP before he started up the renowned John Knowles Motoring Books over 25 years ago, which Kate took over in March 2011 after moving to Clare, in Suffolk from the south coast in September 2010.
“I knew I was going to open a bookshop one day, I just didn’t realise it would be so soon” she says, and after a chance encounter in the local antique shop and an introduction to a gift shop owner, who was moving to a larger premises next door, it all seemed to slot into place. Harris & Harris Books nestles snugly between two beautiful gift shops along the pretty high street in the strong and thriving town of Clare; “I love being here and I feel proud to be part of it”.
The bookshop offers new and second hand books on two floors, with handmade pottery by her mother , Jean Knowles, and a large collection of her father’s old motoring books which attracts regular motor enthusiasts from nearby villages to as far away as Australia.
Kate feels passionate about her little enterprise, her “chain of one” she calls it, “I get a buzz from finding the right book for the right person, maybe it will be a new favourite, or a gift for someone else. I also get a little envious when someone leaves with a bag of books, I wish I had the time to read all of these wonderful 26-lettered creations”. Ten months since the grand opening and she couldn’t be more thrilled with how it’s going, “The locals have been so supportive, I really couldn’t manage without them, and neither would I want to.” Kate’s friend Eddie has even moved up from Eastbourne to help out in the shop.
After a local business association initiative, more focus has been placed on the media side of bookselling, with strong emphasis on Facebook – “I find it a great and quick way of shouting about the things that interest me and hopefully others, whether it is something scrumptious in that morning’s delivery, pictures of the latest window display, books I’ve just read, best sellers, quotes, funnies and other book newsworthy items and chatter.”
When asked why open a bookshop in the current economic climate, Kate remarked “I knew I was taking a bit of a gamble, but sometimes you have just got to do what you’ve got to do. Books and bookshops are not dead, they are very much alive and kicking!”
With the free gift wrapping, individually hand-picked stock, regular window displays (look out for Jok, the sleepy cat), friendly, knowledgeable and professional service, quick customer orders, and maybe a biscuit for visiting four-legged friends, Harris & Harris Books is the one-stop literary haven for readers of all ages.