To say the last 12 months have been tricky for the retail sector is a bit like saying Nurse Ratched’s bedside manner is a touch on the frosty side. And whilst Jack Nicholson’s character McMurphy famously exclaimed of her “she’s somethin’ of a c***, ain’t she, Doc?”, you could be forgiven for describing the last 12 months for this repeatedly hit industry with similarly blue language.
The pandemic has further battered an already struggling high street, and many shops have been forced to closed their doors for a final time. It is perhaps as surprising as it is refreshing, then, to hear of a shop bucking that trend, opening up a new branch and bringing a much-wanted injection of life and atmosphere back into our city’s streets. Specifically, in this case, back into Ship Street, in Brighton’s historic Lanes.
It feels a long time since we’ve been able to peruse the shops: somehow wiling away an hour by idling round the fruit and veg section of a supermarket doesn’t have quite the same appeal as hunting out a new pair of jeans, or browsing shelves of eye-catching tomes filled with untold adventures. And as the surviving shops reopen their doors once more today, there is one new arrival that I’m particularly looking forward to visiting: Goldsboro Books opened just before Christmas and whetted our appetites being open for just ten days before we were all back under lockdown.
However, this elegant yet cosy shop made a big impact in those ten days and, owner David Headley tells me, they have subsequently enjoyed providing customers with a successful click and collect service. This is the second branch for the Brighton resident, the first being one of the most renowned and popular bookshops in the capital, and the team have forged a reputation as the leading world specialist in signed first edition hardbacks.
But what has it been like opening a new shop in such challenging times? What can Brightonians expect from this charming, destination bookshop? And just how good is Danny, The Champion of the World? David explains all.
You opened up your second shop during lockdown when many shops were closing. How did you manage to buck this trend? Was it a stressful experience?
Opening another branch of Goldsboro has been a long-term goal for quite a while, and as 2020 was our 21st year of being in business, it was always the plan to expand. However, it was about the location. When 22b Ship Street in Brighton became available, we felt like it was the perfect space.
It was a little stressful manoeuvring and coordinating everything whilst in tiers and COVID restrictions. Still, we worked flat out to get it all ready in time to open before Christmas, and it was worth every ounce of blood, sweat, tears and hand-sanitiser!
How have the first few months of trading in Brighton gone?
Thankfully we managed to open up for ten days in the run-up to Christmas before the country went back into lockdown, but that short period was a huge success with fantastic sales. People were very generous with their praise and well wishes and seemed pleased to have another bookshop added to Brighton’s creative landscape. Since we have been closed, we have received multiple click-and-collect orders. It’s been encouraging.
What has kept you going, personally, through the last year?
My priority was always my team’s health and welfare at Goldsboro and the desire to keep the business going and ensure that our customers were kept supplied with reading material. Everyone has been reading this past year voraciously!
I have been mainly focused on planning, motivating and supporting my team and adjusting many of our practices to continue making the business COVID secure. There has been a lot of work on our website to continue to provide our signed first edition books to our customers safely and in a timely fashion. My team has been amazing, always going the extra mile, working very long hours to keep the business growing. We have received some charming letters, phone calls, and emails from grateful customers, making it all worth it.
Are you looking forward to being able to open the doors back up and welcome customers back?
We cannot wait for people to come back in, browse our shelves, and be able to connect over great books and stories, which you can’t quite do in the same way via our website and on emails. Talking to readers about books is our favourite part of the job! Our doors were wide open at 10 am this morning!
What book can you recommend as an ideal summer read?
My recommendation for this Summer is Caroline Day’s debut novel Hope Nicely’s Lessons for Life – it is the perfect summer read, a heart-warming story about loneliness, friendship, and hope. All told from the perspective of a young woman born with FAS (foetal alcohol syndrome) discovering her place in the world and how to navigate it. It will appeal to fans of the brilliant, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine.
Who is your favourite author, and why?
Oh! This question is always a hard one to answer. There are many writers who I love and look forward to reading when their new novel is published. However, I want to give you an answer. I remember at the age of seven reading Danny, The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. It changed my life. I became a voracious reader because of that book and, I would credit Roald Dahl for my career as a bookseller.
You’re the world’s leading signed, first edition bookseller. What’s the rarest book you’ve ever sold?
We have been fortunate to have had several exceptional books on our shelves. Goldsboro Books became world-famous in 2013 because we were the only bookshop in the world to have signed copies of The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith. We had no idea who Robert Galbraith was until somebody revealed that it was J. K. Rowling. We sold our signed copies for £16.99, but now they command between £7000 and £10,000.
How did you get into such a niche area of the bookseller’s market?
Daniel Gedeon and I met at college, and we became firm friends because of books. We shared a passion for collecting first edition books, and we decided to start a business selling signed first editions. We knew there was a market for them, and we quickly garnered a reputation for spotting quality books early on. We both have an enormous amount of knowledge about first editions, and we both have an expert eye for books that will become future collectables. The business has grown along with our continued enthusiasm and passion for bookselling excellence over the past 21 years. During this time, we have created a team of dedicated booksellers who share our passion for quality first edition signed books and forged excellent relationships with publishers and many authors who love what we do.
What would be the dream signed the first edition for you to own?
I have a first edition copy of Danny, The Champion of The World, but I would love a signed first edition.
Your London branch enjoys an excellent reputation in the capital, with many authors citing it as their favourite bookshop in the city. Do you hope to forge a similar standing in Brighton? Will you be looking to champion local authors?
We do hope to achieve the same in Brighton. It is my home, and I have very many author friends here. We will be championing local authors; Brighton is brimming with talented writers with whom we can’t wait to have visit, sign and help celebrate the launch of their new books.
We are looking forward to becoming a destination spot for both book-lovers and authors in Brighton.
Time for a totally new and original game: Desert Island Books! If you were to be stranded, what five books would you take with you?
Pillars of The Earth by Ken Follett, The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Goldsboro Books can be found at 22b Ship Street, Brighton. For more information, visit their website: https://www.goldsborobooks.com/