Shrewsbury’s last independent bookshop returns to its roots

Shrewsbury’s last independent bookshop has begun a new chapter – returning to its roots – back to the shop where it originally opened almost 10 years ago.

At a time when traditional bookshops face ever-increasing competition from online sellers, supermarkets and e-books, Pengwern Books is expanding.

The business has moved from Shrewsbury Market Hall, where it traded for four years, to return to Fish Street where it first opened in October 2004. And this time around it also includes a small coffee shop.

“Going back to my old shop is wonderful and provides me with the extra space and flexibility to do more things. I’m planning book launches, film showings, book group evenings and children’s storytelling. I already have two local book launches booked for April,” said Susan Caroline, the woman behind Pengwern Books.

“It’s also enhanced by a little coffee shop. Tea, cake and books go so well together. It’s the first bookshop tearoom in town, something I’ve wanted from the outset.”

The coffee shop is run by Nadia Badr, of the Mirage restaurant, based in the Market Hall.

“We’re selling freshly brewed coffee, tea, cakes and sandwiches. It’s a place where people can enjoy a relaxing time reading or discovering new books. It’s something a bit different for Shrewsbury,” she said.

Susan Caroline has almost 20 years experience as a bookseller. She worked for former Shrewsbury bookshop Powneys before establishing Pengwern Books which launched in Fish Street and later switched to a shop in Princess Street. The business moved to the Market Hall in 2010 to weather the recession.

“Most of my customers have been with me since day one. They’re remarkably loyal people who believe in what I’m doing, and I can’t thank them enough for their ongoing support,” said Susan.

“Times are hard for independent booksellers, there’s no question, but there’s nothing like the magic of going into a little bookshop and discovering something you didn’t know you wanted. I cannot imagine a life without books, that real hands-on experience.

“I try to be different, stocking books that are a bit special. When I do get mainstream books they’re usually signed copies. I love beautiful books. They say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, but of course everyone does.

“A small bookshop doesn’t mean less quality. I stock all the categories. While there are now many different ways to buy books, nothing is quite the same as the independent bookseller for their breadth of knowledge, their solid customer service and willingness to go the extra mile.”

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Pete White Pete White

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