I recently registered on the Airbnb website, an option for people to run a London bookshop ie Offside Books.
The idea is that we give the applicant some training in how we run the shop, and advice on what it would take if you want to open your own venture. Of course much of the buying/selling information is specific to bookselling, but some of the information is useful for anyone thinking of running a shop. It’s also a great way to experience the daily routine of a London bookshop and meet the varied mixture of regular and new customers in Kilburn who visit the shop.
Our first booking was a charming gentleman from Essex called James, who loved the idea (as he’s a regular visitor to London bookstores). James didn’t just take part in the experience, he also took the opportunity to select a good haul of books (at a discount) and promised he’d be back at a later date when he next ventured book-buying into London. Which was a great result for us as it meant we’d gained a new customer!
Just one week later we were surprised to get a booking from a Chinese family, who were in London to celebrate their Spring Festival/Chinese New Year. I’m hoping that they found this as fantastic an experience as we did. Both Fatma (my wife) and myself found it a great privilege to meet a family from China, and talk about the different libraries/bookshops in our two countries.
At one point the father of the Li family wanted to buy some clothing gifts to take home, and I was able to show him the Kilburn High road offerings – not always trumpeted, but there are very good discount stores such as TK Maxx, where Mr Li was able to purchase some good value gifts to take back with him.
So, it’s early days yet in hosting these experiences, but so far we’ve been very privileged to receive such nice guests. And if we can bring a little bit of extra custom to our corner of NW London so much the better. There are a lot of plus points to the Kilburn area, and I hope to write a blog post shortly about some of them, possibly under the title “little-known secrets of Kilburn”.