As many shops reopen this week after being shuttered for almost five months, one Co Wicklow business is particularly hoping to ensure its service continues. Janet Hawkins, who ran the Blessington Book Store for 15 years, is looking for someone who will continue to provide a bookshop and cafe to the local community in the Co Wicklow village.
“I opened a bookshop on the main street in 2005,” she says. “In 2009, I moved across the street to a larger premises, and added a coffee shop.” The shop proved “very successful”, with an emphasis on children’s books. “It was a higgedly-piggedly building, with low ceilings.”
The higgedly-piggedly building with low ceilings was a cosy, atmospheric place of about 90sq m (968sq ft) – a bit smaller than an average three-bed semi-D – but with the onset of a global pandemic the low ceilings suddenly showcased poor ventilation, not charm. “Aside from the lockdowns, it was going to be difficult to operate going forward,” she says. “The place was too small.” She made the decision to close in May 2020.
“I was out of lease, so I gave up that lease and worked as a pop-up bookshop in a different premises for the rest of 2020.”
Now Blessington has lost its permanent bookshop, and Hawkins has decided to give up the pop-up too, as she is of an age when retirement is not far off. But even though she doesn’t want to go back into the bookselling business, she feels strongly that Blessington should continue to have a bookshop with a cafe.
"About a month ago, a man approached me about a lovely building at the back of Blessington Town Centre behind Dunnes Stores, and he said he thought this would be a perfect location for a bookshop and cafe." Hawkins went along to have a look at the empty building. "Downstairs is about 80sq m, and it's the same upstairs; there is lovely light and views."
Hawkins has now taken to social media, inviting interested parties to consider taking on the role of bookstore proprietor for Blessington.
“So far there are three people interested, and they are all coming to have a look and talk to the landlord,” she says. “They will need capital to get going, as I sold all my stock. But I am offering my advice and good will, and also the opportunity to buy the cafe equipment for a fair price. The intention is that there will still be a bookshop in the town. And hopefully someone will want to take it on.”
The tables and an assortment of chairs from the former cafe part of the shop are stored in Hawkins’s attic. The counter is in a hay barn, crockery is in a shed, and various equipment, such as a commercial dishwasher and microwave, has migrated indoors to her own home. “Don’t open a cupboard in my house,” she warns.