I was called in today to talk with Anthony, the head manager of Soho Books. As always in these situations my first reaction is “Did I do something wrong?” followed by “Of course I didn’t, how DARE he accuse me of… whatever he’s going to accuse me of,” followed by “Well, maybe I did something and didn’t realize it?” followed by, “If I did do something he’ll have it on security camera so I can’t deny it,” followed by, “Oh, God, I hope I don’t get fired.”
Then I usually whimper a bit.
Of course this is never the case and simply a matter of me indulging my own mild paranoia about such things. What happened today however, was something I never thought would happen to me again.
They’re closing down my bookstore.
Well, to be more accurate, they’re converting it to a lingerie shop, but it’s the same thing. In a few weeks my bookstore will be no more.
The reason I never thought this would happen to me again is because it’s happened twice before. EVERY bookstore I have ever worked at has closed within a year of me joining it.
First there was the store in Kilburn, near where Gill and I used to live. I split my time between the book store upstairs and sex shop downstairs. I left the store to work elsewhere for a while, but when I left we all knew the store’s days were numbered. Several people had come in checking it out, taking measurements, interested in buying it and the writing was on the wall.
Then when we moved to Camberwell I lost my other job, but managed to rejoin Soho Books as they had an opening in their branch in Cowcross (near Farrington). This was a much more upscale store, surrounded by architects and other businesses in a fashionable part of London near Holborn. At this time I found out that the Kilburn branch had closed for good. I rather enjoyed the Cowcross branch, it was the first time I was fully in charge of the bookstore, doing about half of the ordering myself and working only upstairs.
Then came the people taking measurements.
I really didn’t want this store to close. It was just the right size for me, and I enjoyed the customers that came in. I had managed to double the income the bookstore made as well by changing the stock around to things a bit less stuffy and more fun. But the sad fact of the matter is that the bookstore part of Soho Books is NOT the moneymaker. Downstairs is where it’s at, and if that’s not making a profit, neither is the company. The fact that I was making more upstairs than they were downstairs pretty much sealed its fate. When we closed up the shop for the last time, I felt a bit sad, it was like I let the place down, doomed to become yet another sandwich shop on Cowcross street.
They moved me to Brewer Street where the main Soho Books branch is. I didn’t work at the main branch, though, but the small branch across the street from it. This time I was fully in charge of the store’s inventory, ordering everything myself instead of half. Of course, the store itself was tiny, less than half the size of Cowcross, and my ability to customize the books I carried limited. Still I managed to get a full bookcase dedicated to comics and SF/F novels. It was just starting to take off, too. The recession killed the overall income of the store, but the comics and SF/F books were pulling in more than any other category (other than art, which is this store’s prime focus). This store was always the weakest of the bunch, though, so once the Powers That Be decided they could turn it into a lingerie shop upstairs and sex shop downstairs without breaking the license restrictions, that was that.
So now I’m onto Middlesex Street. The upside of this store will be that it’s much bigger (same size as Cowcross I’m told), and I’ll have a bigger budget to work with, along with the usual freedom to alter stuff as I see fit. It’s also near Liverpool Station and is supposed to be a very upscale part of town. The downside is that the hours are a bit longer, I think. I can’t say I care for that at all. But overall I suppose this will be an interesting change of pace for me. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.
The question is, how long will it be before THIS store closes?