The 14th of July 2022 marks half a decade of Imagined Things!!! Five full years since I opened the doors of the bookshop tucked away inside the Westminster Arcade, as Harrogate’s first independent bookshop in nearly 20 years! Our first day open was the 14th of July 2017! I was full of ideas, excitement and very little experience of the wonderful world of bookselling, and the adventure of owning a bookshop that I was about to start. So much has changed since I ran away from the NHS to open a bookshop, hoping for the best and starting on a shoestring, working 6 days a week, loving every moment of it and pouring everything I had into my little shop. Now we’re not so little anymore, we’re 1825 days old!!! We’ve got through days of taking £12.34, lockdown closures and my maternity leave. We’ve been through tough times and are so delighted and grateful to still be here, bringing the joy of an independent bookshop to the wonderful people of Harrogate ( & beyond!). We’ve even moved to an amazing new premises following our brilliant crowdfunding campaign (more on that later!). And it’s all thanks to the amazing support of our wonderful customers – it honestly means the entire world, and this is your celebration as much as ours. We imagined Imagined Things, and you made it REAL! For those who don’t know I wanted to talk a little (well it turns out a lot!) about how we got here and those we have to thank along the way… it really is a long one! So thank you to anyone who makes it to the end (I’ll forgive you if you don’t!).
Our viral tweet in 2018, after that £12.34 day really changed the shop’s fortunes around and meant lots more lovely customers found out about us. The first, almost year, before that was quiet, too quiet for the shop to be viable in the longterm and that tweet really saved us. I’m forever grateful for everyone who shared it and supported us both before and after – we literally wouldn’t be here without you all. The tweet went viral and was seen by over 1 million people at the time, and the stats are now at 2 million impressions! It was, and is, incredible. We had more emails and offers of support than we could ever get back to, but just know, if you had any part in that tweet I am incredibly grateful – it going viral made all the difference in the world. I ended up on Radio 5 Live, Radio 4, on local radio, in newspapers and magazines and it led to lots of ongoing publicity that really helped keep Imagined Things in the minds of those near and far. Special thanks to Phil Chapman of Radio 5 Live and now Times Radio for interviewing me after the tweet and later, and Adam Holmes, Georgey Spanswick and team for having me so often on Radio York!
I don’t need to remind anyone of the lockdowns and the unique challenges covid brought to us all. We’re incredibly grateful we saw the other side of all of that, and it’s thanks to the incredible support from all of our lovely customers that got us through! It gave me such purpose to wrap up all of those books and deliver them to doorsteps.
When I looked into opening a bookshop there seemed to be many reasons not to. And as I’ve said before it’s a brilliant industry, but it’s a difficult industry, and it’s true. But I’ve found that for all the challenge it’s worth every second. We’re very much more than a place that sells things. We’re a proud part of our community. We’re passionately independent and love all aspects of bringing books to people! We work with local schools, charities and businesses. We’ve ran storytimes, author events and stalls. We know so many customers by name, or by book, and have even watched children growing up. I’ve found friends in the shop and connection through so many chats about books and other random things – I love being with people in the shop, and have got to know so many of you so well. I’m honoured to be a part of your lives. Our Book Club is flourishing and it’s lovely to meet and connect through books. The bookshop is such a magical place.
The location in the arcade had always been a challenge. We were tucked away, we didn’t have a window on the street and had steps on both sides. So when the lease came up for renewal this year I decided to take another leap and move the shop to the beautiful new location on Montpellier Parade. We Imagined a Better Bookshop together and our crowdfunding campaign, and on the 18th May 2022 we’d raised £18,648 with 235 supporters in 35 days. https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/imaginedthings We were honestly blown away by all the support. I would love to name everyone here but there’s simply too many of you! (Though lots of you will soon be proudly displayed on the Wall of Thanks in the new shop – I’d hoped to have it done by now, but alas, life has not made that possible, but it won’t be too long!). To everyone who donated – you really are our bookshop heroes and every single penny is so appreciated. The money has helped so much in making the move easier to manage and giving us a bit more breathing space as our now much increased bills come in. It was a leap to move to Montpellier and one I think will pay off, but it’s early days and your support has made this so, so much easier. We adore our new location and it gives us so much scope. We’re so delighted to have this opportunity – thank you to everyone who’s helped make this possible.
Our new location is amazing. We’re in a bright blue, airy shop in the gorgeous Montpellier Quarter! We have a window on the outside, can see trees and the outside! There’s room for a lot more books and for us to display them at their best. It’s a really lovely space were very pleased to be in! We even have an entire basement for storage!
We’ve had tonnes of various author events over the years from in-shop fantasy and sci-fi panels featuring Joanna Harris and Christopher Priest! To Henry Blofeld and Ben Aaronvitch. We’ve had Anne Cleeves in the library, who was so lovely. Lee Child visited and bought books (he told me to leave my husband – whole other story, and not at all how it sounds!!) and Richard Osman – our tallest authors! Joseph Knox, Fiona Cummins, C L Taylor, Claire Mackintosh, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre (& Ambrose Parry!), Tony Kent and so many more legends of the Crime Festival – being just lovely, supportive folks and coming to sign for us! Also Tammy Cohen – our first ever book launch during the crime festival! Will Dean for being so generous and donating tonnes of books to local schools. Sophie Kinsella, Antony Johnson and Jonnie Wild for their very generous crowdfunder support. Also local authors Jonnie, Rob Cowen and Andy Dennis. Lovely folks Julia Chapman and Matson Taylor who write brilliant fiction set in Yorkshire. And oh so many more. I could write a whole blog, no, an entire series of blogs on the authors that have been amazing to us! Thank you all, and I’m so sorry if I’ve forgotten to name you.
And not to mention those behind the scenes – publicists, agents and publishing professionals – thank you all too. We’d be lost without our lovely reps too and special thanks to Andy Belshaw (& Richard Green) from Pan Macmillan, to Nicola Mitchell at Simon & Scheuster (yes I will never spell this correctly!), Martin Myers at PRH, Alice at Nosy Crow and Nigel at Hachette. You’re all amazing! Also Sue at Indie Alliance, Terry from Bloomsbury, Andrew who used to be our Gardners Rep – thank you all! The Booksellers Association – thank you for existing and for championing indies like you do – special mention to Meryl Halls and Emma Bradshaw! And other booksellers – I’ve found my tribe for sure – for your inspiration, friendship, help and entertainment – thank you all! Huge thanks to Dan Fridd for his excellent IT advice and all round generous nature he shares with his wife Leanne! To Helen from Forum Books – I can’t thank you enough for letting me into your shop for the day before I even opened mine. It was magical and I knew I wanted a bookshop of my own. You’ve been a friend and total inspiration since. And Nic Bottomley from Mr B’s – huge inspiration, so encouraging, generous and great to talk to. And Gill & Simon & Phoebe (Little Ripon) Ros (Main Street), Fleur (Sevenoaks), Emma(Book-ish), Sue (White Rose), Jenna (Book Corner), Adam Hewson and so many more! Thank you especially to Sheila O’Reilly bookseller mentor extraordinaire – you helped me immensely, and you were right about the first location! Could also do an entire post on industry folks who’ve helped us get where we are today. I’ll stop here. My apologies again for missing anyone!
I don’t blog very often and often think I should, it has been quite the journey. But running a bookshop is a lot, and there’s always lots of other things to do! I’m sure a well stocked and tended bookshop will be more appreciated than a lot of blog posts of me rambling on! Though I thought 5 years was certainly worth marking! It’s not every day your business has been around for half a decade! And now with a 15 month old there’s always other things to do! I type this on my phone in bed whilst she sleeps beside me, and in 5 years time when I’m hopefully celebrating a decade of Imagined Things she’ll be 6 years old. Old enough to understand that Mammy has a bookshop, and for me to explain all of this to her. Perhaps I’ll take her on a walk past the old shop in the arcade and tell her that’s where it all started.
There’s no longer just me behind the till. Indeed with my maternity and preparing for the new shop there’s been very little of me behind the till, but I’m in more often again and loving being back on the shop floor of the new shop recommending books and being part of the bookshop team again! We’re currently only a “small but mighty” (as Debbie put it) team of three! There’s me, Debbie and Hayley. Debbie has been with us since 2018 and is now our bookshop Manager working full-time. Debbie is such an amazing asset to our team, and has been leading the Imagined Things ship expertly whilst I’ve been away! I can’t thank her enough for her hard work, diligence, loyalty and amazing admin skills. Debbie is particularly passionate about classics, YA, crime/thriller/mystery and villians! Her bookish passion shines through everything she does, and is appreciated by customers and schools that we work with. She even named all the bookshop dragons! And is hard at work ensuring I don’t clutter up the new shop! I wanted to take this opportunity to thank her for putting up with all of my clutter and various shenanigans as I found my feet as a new business owner and sticking with me, and Imagined Things, through it all, and becoming an amazing friend too. I couldn’t imagine my life, or the shop, without her, and are so proud she’s our manager! Hayley is our Senior bookseller that joined us in late 2020 to cover my maternity where our team swelled to four part-time booksellers that Christmas. Hayley is our resident horror, gothic, feminist (think messy women!) and picture book enthusiast! She’s brought her dynamic ideas (thank her for the gumball machine!), excellent customer service skills and passion for young book lovers to the role. Her email management is second to none and she’s even learnt to like wrapping!! Hayley’s excellent memory, book summarisation and recommendation skills would put most publicists to shame – she’s always ready to step in with tonnes of info about all manner of books! Hayley was a huge part of keeping things running and improving things whilst I was away, taking on so many tasks and going above and beyond – running the book club, getting involved in orders and restocking, brilliant social media ideas and all kinds of bookish and non-bookish things. Hayley is an absolute asset to us and we’re so thrilled she’s now full-time too (thanks to the new location!) and she’ll be increasingly involved with the running of things as we move forwards. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank her for her energy, kindness and professionalism, and all that she’s brought to the Imagined Things team – we very much appreciate all that she does! And also for her loyalty and faith when things weren’t always so easy. She’s our beloved friend, bookseller and colleague and I could no longer imagine the shop without her. And also Meg who has recently left us to persue pastures new with the Shakespeare North Playhouse (Exit, pursued by a bear!). Meg’s kindness, bookish enthusiasm, camera and filming, and insane editing skills will be hugely missed. Meg was a treasured part of the team and a big part of our crowdfunding campaign, we miss them dearly. Indeed, if you’d like to fill the Meg-shaped-hole left in our team we are looking for a new bookseller (you don’t have to be as skilled as Meg at , see more here. And to other past booksellers – thank you all!
I can’t believe it’s been 5 years. Paradoxically it feels like yesterday and forever ago – as all of the best things do. And speaking of thanks – there’s a few people I haven’t mentioned. The bookshop wouldn’t exist without my husband Karl – he told me to go for it when I thought it was an impossible dream, he’s kept a roof over my head when I couldn’t have afforded one alone and believed in the business every step of the way. He’s been amazing (even if he did tell me not to post that tweet… we’ll forgive him for that!) And my Mum – my biggest cheerleader who is evangelical about Imagined Things and spent forever with me painting the first shop (& some of the new one!), and has helped with many a Christmas window over the years! And my Mum, Nan and Grandad I wouldn’t have got very far at all in life without them. I have so much to thank them for. And to all other family and friends who’ve supported my dream – you know who you are – thank you. And to Ruby-Alice my tiny bookseller – you’re the most incredible thing of all, and I can’t wait to share Imagined Things with you when you’re bigger!
Think that’s enough for now – thank you if you’ve read this far. Sorry for rambling. Brevity has never been my strong point! To everyone who’s bought not just a book, not just a card but a bookshop’s future – THANK YOU ALL.
We’ll be celebrating 5 years with 5% off over the next 5 days if you wish us HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Plus chances to win £5 gift vouchers and other prizes in store! Also use the code HAPPY5THBIRTHDAY for 5% online!
Georgia – Owner of Imagined Things!