Scarthin Books was set up in 1974 by Dave Mitchell then a square peg in the round hole of Local Government. He had an empty shop on the ground floor of the unfashionable but charismatic house he first-time-purchased after a six-month struggle. He’d been chronically infected by the mystery and magic of second-hand bookshops, but also decided to sell new books, so we could supply absolutely anything. Didn’t expect it to be more than a hobby.
- Dave Mitchell, very lucky (touch-wood), science-and-engineering-educated, failed-anorak, 70’s drop-out and incompetent poly-math, now posted to next door on an old-age sabbatical (expects to grow younger again)
- Guy Cooper, ex-lecturer in Native American Religions and life-long student of the transpersonal. Hunts for and selects the new books, with obvious bias
- Wendy Cooper, mother of three daughters now mothers the bookshop staff, anxious school-teachers and mail-order customers
- John Pidcock, ex-maintainer of old steam boilers now maintains the antiquarian book stocks; converses in Latin, Welsh and Derbyshire
- David Booker, as his name suggests is our action man, giving the bookshop a makeover, running facebook and twitter presences and has set up a panel of junior book-reviewers
- Phil Dixon, abandoned a high-flying career in local radio to (try to) introduce some proper business practices here; runs the out-of-print book search
- Les Hurst, Brain of Mensa 2008 and able to recite most of George Orwell from memory; the only one to understand our accounts; adds the erudite remarks to online book descriptions
- Emily Chaplais, does lots of things the rest of us avoid, like tidying the children’s room, when not on tour with the CBSO (City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra)
- Eve Hailey, how would we do without her, a young mother who gets away from them all to work for a few hours at the weekend, when the rest of us are unwilling
- Joolz and Eve and Kathy keep the café going, with nearly every member of the local school sixth-forms (it seems) at weekends
- Michael and Ruth Mitchell compete with their friends for slots in the shop and café, when their school and university work allows
- Edmund Hunt, Tom Carter, May Kindred and Nikki Barnet fill in the many holes in our rota at short notice
How do we keep solvent with so many??? How indeed, but then, there are in effect four businesses (at least) run from here, 7 days a week.
We host a weekly Buddhist meditation meeting, monthly Amnesty International local group, bi-monthly philosophical reading group and irregular Café Philosophique lectures and discussions. We do regular signings with crime-writer Stephen Booth and with local authors – forthcoming the launch of the posthumous diaries of a talented young victim of leukaemia, Richard Woolley. We almost never have celebrity signings – they all live too expensively far from here in the fashionable regions of the country.
What are your criteria for any book promotions (e.g. 3 for 2, window placements, etc.) you may run?
Our promotions include a current fortnight’s annual sale – 50% off new overstocks and 20% off all second-hand books. We give out a £1 voucher for every £20 spent and at the moment are doing 3 second-hand novels for the price of 2.
As for reading, I keep re-reading David Mackay’s Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air and I’m devouring the latest edition of the New York Review of Books.
What makes your shop THE shop to visit when in town on a book-buying mission?
We attempt to be what every bookshop should be, which can’t easily be defined. We have an enormous stock rich in the unexpected (a dozen rooms, around 80,000 titles), very resourceful book-finding services, a homely atmosphere to be completely relaxed in, a café, an exceptional children’s book room, lots of odd but rational features, including a rotating secret door bookcase, tables made from a ship’s propeller and from a stone-saw, a sculptural blacklsmith-made shop sign, an utterly unfair tall father’s book prize beam, a foreign-languages room with piano (if you can find it) and lots of unique documents framed on the few walls not covered in books. We are one of the most enjoyable of bookshops – alas it seems that people increasingly come here to enjoy us rather than to buy the books!
Open 9-6, 12-6 Sundays & New Year’s Day
Tel: +44 (0)1629 823272 Fax: +44 (0)1629 825094 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org