A POPULAR charity book shop is closing after more than a decade serving local bookworms.
The Oxfam store on Queens Road has been operating as a fundraising shop since 1989 and had been run from a nearby unit for a number of years before that.
It became a specialist book centre in 2000 after the charity opened its Wellington Place premises which took on the bulk of the general donations, leaving 46 Queens Road to concentrate on books, CDs and vinyl.
Nestled amid the hustle and bustle of Queens Road, the store quickly became an oasis of calm for local book fans and established a loyal customer base.
Last Friday though, with the store’s lease having expired and the decision taken to close, the last of the books left the shelves – either in the shopping bags of customers, or to head to the other town centre Oxfam shop.
It was an emotional day for the many volunteers who man the tills and Marjorie Blandford, speaking on behalf of the team, issued a heartfelt thank you to everyone who had supported the shop over the last 13 years.
Mrs Blandford, who became a volunteer after responding to an advert calling for book lovers, said staff had been bowled over by well-wishers since news of the closure spread.
“We have a comments book which runs to a dozen pages,” she said. “It is lovely to read what people have said.”
Entries range from thanking the volunteers for saving them money, to others heralding the store as a community hub. Almost all though make mention of the shop’s staff. And, according to Mrs Blandford, customer service was always central to the way things were done.
“Everyone who worked here was a book lover themselves and we tried to help people as much as we could, whether that be recommending other books, letting them know when certain titles they were after came in or helping students track down the books from their reading lists.
“I think people liked it because they knew they could come here and they could just browse in their own time without distractions.”
It was an approach which clearly worked. In the last year alone the shop made £13,500 for the charity.
The doors though are now closed. The shelves empty of books. Remaining stock has been taken to the Wellington Place store, which will now have a dedicated book section – a section which many of the Queens Road volunteers will now work in.
And, while clearing out the shop, staff unearthed a dusty scroll which, on closer inspection, had been presented to the local branch of the charity by Oxfam bosses back in 1970 in recognition of the £60,000 raised in its first 10 years. It is now on display at the Wellington Place shop.
Mrs Blandford and her colleagues will now transfer to the new store, keen to keep helping local book fans unearth the odd gem.
“It won’t be the same,” she said. “But hopefully our old customers will still pop in.
“We have been very lucky with the support we have received in this town.
“We just all want to say a big thank to everyone who has ever donated, volunteered or used the shop.”