Chapter 34: See inside Shoreham's new independent bookshop and meet owner Kelly
Kelly Wickson opened Chapter 34, in Brunswick Road, Shoreham, only six weeks ago and has already built a band of regulars and a growing number of courses and events to enjoy.
She took over the former Osborn Humphreys estate agents and redesigned the shop to incorporate the bookshop, a coffee bar with eight seats and an upstairs event space.
Kelly said: "When we saw this place, with the upstairs – and events is what I know, this was a great opportunity. My husband and I designed it ourselves, then he and his dad built it from scratch."
Having run her own businesses for years, in the wedding industry, Kelly has an eye for what works and it was with her family’s encouragement that she developed the idea for the bookshop.
Kelly explained: "I think people are surprised when I say it wasn't my dream. In lockdown, I said with the kids getting older, maybe it was time to get a full-time job. My husband said I would hate working for someone and suggested we start a business that would stand the test of time.
"I kind of had the seed in the back of my mind at the end of 2021 and I looked at another shop but it was way too small. I felt what Shoreham was missing was a lovely little bookshop.
"I think there is a real resurgence in books, especially for young readers, the 20-year-olds. There is a real drive around #BookTok on TikTok. I think Kindle was great but people soon realised that they loved the feel of a book in their hands and the smell of a book."
Kelly grew up in Horsham and now lives in Shoreham with her family. She loves reading for pleasure but admits she is not a fast reader – if she loves a book, she loves to indulge in it.
She spoke to independent bookshops for advice and said people had been generous with their time, particularly The Margate Bookshop, and the success so far has been incredible.
"It has really blown us away," said Kelly. "I don't want it to be your bog standard bookshop, I wanted it to be interesting and for people to pick up something they would not normally choose."
The shelves are laid out in themes, like She Said exploring hidden voices and Bonds That Bind with tales of friendship, and that is going down really well.
Kelly explained: "The idea is that fiction and non-fiction are muddled up. The most popular section has been Dive In. The curation of the shelves is a most interesting and time-consuming thing. Because we are small bookshop, we get access to special editions."
Chapter 34 comes from the number of the shop but also, by coincidence, that is the final chapter of Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and Kelly feels that is a great story to be associated with.
She said: "I hunted for bookshop names online for weeks but I saw many were taken. I didn't want a pun. I wanted something simple."
Her husband, Joss Wickson, designed the logo for the coffee bar, showing the legs of a person diving into a cup of coffee. Kelly has a passion for good coffee and having decided on Throwback Espresso from Small Batch Coffee Roasters, made arrangements for it to be renamed Paperback especially for the shop.
Pay it Forward allows people to choose a tag and add on the donation to their purchase for the school book fund in support of local schools. The first month saw £205 raised for Swiss Gardens Primary School's new library and this month, Buckingham Park Primary School is being supported.
Workshops upstairs include Carmen Haselup's Tideline Trash and Treasures beach wreath making, creative writing for mental health, Read It! children's book club, Story Creators writing sessions for children and Early Risers Yoga.
Kelly said: "I do a lot of yoga and I was worried I wouldn't have time for it any more, so I found someone and she does it twice a week upstairs - and I do it too. There is space for 10 mats. I chose the colour for the upstairs room especially. The whole family did the painting, my husband and children."
Chapter 34 is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm. Books, including revision books for schools, can be ordered in the shop.