With an art background, James Howorth has had a varied career, which latterly led him to work at the Tate Modern bookshop, and then to manage a secondhand and antique bookshop in the West Midlands. His wife Rachael had been a researcher for BBC Radio 4. Not uncommonly, it was the allure of the laid-back, seaside lifestyle that led them to look for a change of location, but it was their mutual passion for books that found them browsing Google for vacant bookshop premises. Just one option came up: Books Plus. They viewed it, and within weeks they were moving to Cornwall with children, Leila and Finna, in tow. We spoke to James about their decision and ambitions.
People love bookshops because they're inspiring places, and James knows this is his most powerful weapon against the Goliath-like web retailers. He explains: "The population of Penzance really embrace independent shops – we have customers who search for books online and then buy them from us, just because they want to keep an independent bookseller in town – and I can't ask for more than that". James's opinion of our independent shopping scene is insightful: he says, "Shop owners have taken a leap of faith to open in a place like this, and in this economic climate, and they're really go-getting because of that – they've really got to pull out all the stops – which might lead towards everything that is in Penzance being of a higher standard".
Their vision to create a more engaging experience led them to change the name of shop. "We wanted a name that sounded like a book title, something that had a romantic charm and would capture the imagination of children too". The Edge of the World Bookshop is also their own tribute to the location and their perception that West Cornwall is a separate, magical place, a world apart from the rest of the country.
Along with the new name comes an eye-catching fascia and, to follow, a fresh interior fit-out, new window fittings and an old-style swinging shop sign. Plans on the distant horizon include conversion of the cavernous meat cellar (the shop was once a butchers) into an events space or reading room.
So, if wet weather drives you off the beach and you're heading for the shelter of the town, here's one fine place to spend a happy time indulging or reigniting your love of books.
The Edge of the World Bookshop