How to Sell 'The Devon Way' - Lessons from a Magical Bookshop

By Jeremy Blake on April 12, 2016

I’m back from a glorious week in Devon where my family relaxed in Grandma’s immobile mobile home for the week.

We spent time on the beach and it hardly rained. We visited all of the nearby towns, Totness, Dartmouth, Plymouth and Salcombe. One day we stumbled upon Salters Bookshelf off the main drag. Ah some culture I thought, as we fell inside.

Immediately my children, and in particular my son, were asking for a new book. “Dad this is so amazing I’ve got to get this!”

Now you will think that it is a great that a child is excited about a book, and I agree it is, except my dear twelve year old is in the habit of starting books and not finishing them, Bob will be thinking – like Father like Son!

So we have a rule that we get them a new book as soon as the last one is finished.
At this point, in came a calm lady, who I assumed was the owner. She gracefully approached Archie with, “What is the book you’ve nearly finished?”

“Er Trash”, says Archie.

“Umm let me look that up, I have heard of it but don’t know if I have it, ah yes I have, here it is!”

Jess, as I later learned, took the book of the shelf and handed it to Archie. “Is this the one Archie?” I smiled thinking that I must have said his name and she’d picked up on it.

“Yes, its about kids in Brazil on a trash site who discover a suitcase full of money,” he replies.

Jess turned to the back cover, “Ah there is no synopsis, you’ve got to actually read it!”

Archie, Tash and I are all laughing now.

“So when you’ve finished this book Archie, what would you love to read next?”

We then let Archie and Jess discuss teen literature while we noticed the girls had discovered Lulu her dog, a Bichon Frise.

Tash looked around the shop and as the heaven’s opened right on cue she noticed a chess set, it was placed on the counter. “Dad can teach us all!”

We then found out about how Jess had come to have Salter’s Bookshelf. It had been her late husband’s business and she had decided to keep it going.

What Jess has is a natural enthusiasm for conversation, and an interest in her customers. Jess quickly picked up on how we as parents, were encouraging our children to read.

I had no intentions of buying anything when I went in that shop. Through Jess engaging and having an interest in us, we took an interest in her.

What was refreshing was the way we were able to spend time without any obligation to buy. We could browse and absorb ourselves in classic titles and new thrillers, to scan children’s picture books and look at old maps and local history.

When Kindle was launched it was said to be the death of the book. What people like Jess prove is that bookshops, with the right people in them, are irreplaceable.