The Book Case has been serving the town of Hebden Bridge for over thirty years! After working here for five years as the children’s book buyer I took over the shop with my brother Jake in 2011. We have three wonderful and highly experienced part-time members of staff, and the previous owner is still our landlord and hugely supportive of the shop.
Hebden bridge is a beautiful Pennine milltown surrounded by wild moorland, with a vibrant literary and arts scene. Ted Hughes was born a mile down the road in Mytholmroyd and Sylvia Plath is buried in Heptonstall churchyard high above the town. History is everywhere in the valley from the from the remains of mills, the old weavers cottages and further back to our 500 year old packhorse bridge.
Unfortunately in recent years Hebden has become more well known for suffering severe flooding, and the shop has flooded three times in the six years since we took over.
In the Boxing day floods of 2015 we had over 5ft of river water in the shop and lost all of our stock. Everything was covered in black filthy mud. Despite adversity the whole town rallied together to get back on its feet. At the Book Case we had huge support from the local community, and also from the wider world of publishing who donated books to restock our shelves and authors who auctioned books to raise money for us. We were also supported by the James Patterson bookshop fund. With help from the council and our landlord we have been able to install multiple flood defences, including folding book cases and a sign that lowers down to become our floodgate! The whole town knows it will be if rather than when we have another flood, but we are all determined to carry on!
A wonderful thing to come out of the flood was to feel the amazing support that the community has for our bookshop. We had so many messages of support and goodwill from customers far and wide telling us how much they loved and valued our shop. We absolutely try to give as much as we can back to the community, by stocking and publicising local writers, supporting publications from the local history society, working with local schools and holding a range of events, including regular books signings and an acclaimed monthly Poetry Night which has hosted some of the best contemporary poets in the North. We also have wonderful working relationship with Hebden Bridge based independent publisher Bluemoose, and it is a pleasure to host launches and signings for them. We even had a publisher’s takeover on Bookshop Day when Bluemoose authors came and worked behind the counter.
Publishers are going the extra mile to produce stunning book design and we try to create a space in the shop do them justice. We love themed shelves, face-forward covers and a balance of literary themed gifts and beautiful stationery. One of our best selling subject area’s is natural history. It’s not surprising really when we are surrounded by the most beautiful Yorkshire countryside.
We value customers of all ages! Our children’s area has a wall of bright picture books, a sofa and lots of space for little ones. The beautiful tree mural painted by Simon, our resident artist and longest serving member of staff gives a magical feel – can you spot the creatures peeking out from between the leaves? We love to welcome younger customers, and picture books are often the inspiration behind our window displays. Last year we were lucky enough to have illustrator Helen Stephens visit to create a ‘How to Hide a Lion’ window, and this Christmas in honour of a wonderful visit from Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell we had an Odd and the Frost Giants window.
In an age of internet shopping we believe there is still an important role for bricks and mortar bookshops, as part of a thriving high street which is a huge asset to a town. We are very proud that our street was a winner in The Great British High Street awards. We have tried to create a warm, friendly and inviting environment where customers feel happy to browse away an hour or so. Comfy seats, good lighting and an uncluttered feel to our display space helps to produce a tranquil environment. We have a strong customer base of locals and often order books for stock on recommendation or with a particular person in mind or but we have a large tourist footfall, and love to surprise new customers with books they never knew they wanted!
So if you love independent bookshops do come and visit us in beautiful West Yorkshire! It would be lovely to meet you and we’re sure you will not be disappointed.