As a writer, I am addicted to bookshops. They are magical places – and I believe we need to celebrate and support them. In my new novel, I’ll Take New York, Bea James owns a bookshop in Brooklyn, fuelled by her lifelong love of books. So I decided to invite wonderful, real-life bookshops to tell their stories in my new Brilliant Bookshops feature!
First to step into the Brilliant Bookshops spotlight is the gorgeous CHICKEN AND FROG BOOKSHOP in Brentwood, Essex…
Tell me about your shop!
We are the only independent bookshop in Brentwood, Essex. The shop is a family-run business with Jim and Natasha Radford as the owners. Our eldest, Alice, helps out after school and on the weekends sometimes, as does Natasha’s dad.
We stock children’s books (up to YA), but are happy to order in other titles for anyone. Chicken and Frog has been open for almost 18 months (October 2012). As well as children’s books, we are also a tuition centre, running classes every week-night after school and some holiday classes, too.
What services/events/promotions do you offer customers?
We are passionate about being a place for our community. There are weekly Rhythm & Rhyme sessions and story times, all of which are free. There’s a box of Duplo and a colouring table, too.
Authors and illustrators have been very kind and offered to spend time with us for events. So far, we have been visited by: Lucy Coats, Martin Brown, Nick and Annette Butterworth, Christopher William Hill, David O’Connell, Karen McCombie, Mo O’Hara, John Dougherty, Laura Dockrill, Steve Lenton, J.D.Irwin, Michelle Robinson, Caryl Hart, Tamsyn Murray, Sara Grant… and we have events booked in with Andy Robb, Jim Smith, Dan Freedman and Eva Katzler. All of these events have been free, as we want reading to be accessible to everyone.
We work very closely with local schools and the theatre to promote reading within the community. Natasha runs CPD for teachers, as well as our tuition centre (English, Maths, 11+, ESL for adults), where we employ two qualified teachers plus Natasha to deliver lessons. The lessons are as affordable as possible (£15 per session) with four students per group.
We were awarded a community fund last year, in order to provide a free tuition programme to families who cannot afford fees. This service has continued, although the funding has not!
We were awarded Barrington Stoke’s Bookseller of the Month in December – we love their books for dyslexic and reluctant readers.
Our loyalty card rewards our regulars with a 20% discount once they have spent £50 on books. A 10% discount plus free delivery is standard for all schools and individual teachers, too.
School holidays are filled with lots of events, including Lego challenges, writing workshops, cooking… guitar lessons, art club, handwriting club…we do a lot! As great as it would be to just have a quirky little bookshop, that’s not viable. We can’t compete with Amazon or Sainsbury’s etc on price, but we do hand sell books, offering advice and time to read on the sofa.
What inspired you to open a bookshop?
This may sound cheesy, but we have wanted to own a children’s bookshop since we met at 16. Jim was made redundant and couldn’t find a job. He didn’t get any redundancy money, but we took it as a sign to go for it. Our lovely children were very involved in the decision because it meant a big lifestyle change for them. They love it and so do we. Celebrating and promoting books is what we love.
What do you love most about your business?
That’s a tricky one! Inspiring a reluctant reader to pick up a book or listen to someone else read is wonderful. We also encourage children to write, with our annual writing competition and creative writing club.
What more can you tell us about your bookshop?
The future is looking bright. Book sales have more than doubled since we opened, we have been asked to work with local primary schools to promote literacy (utilising their pupil premium allowance), authors continue to support us and our customers are amazing. We feel extremely fortunate to be a part of the community. It’s very hard work, but it’s worth every moment.
Other stuff we’re proud of: we are a FairTrade business, we collect in second-hand books to redistribute to children’s homes/surgeries/hospitals etc, we sponsor one of the Brents (local theatre awards), we donate books and book tokens to various charities throughout the year and we donate surplus WBD books to local schools.
Thanks so much to Natasha from Chicken and Frog Bookshop for a great interview! The shop looks incredible – if you’re near Brentwood, pop in and say hello!
Visit Chicken and Frog Bookshop at: 7 Security House, Ongar Road, Brentwood, Essex, CM15 9AT, tel: 01277 230068. Check out their website: www.chickenandfrog.com, follow them @chickenandfrog on Twitter and at chickenandfrog on Facebook. You can also find them on Hive. Don’t forget to mention you’ve seen Chicken and Frog on my blog!
Do you have a favourite bookshop you’d like to nominate for this feature? Are you a bookseller who would like to take part? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org!