Tucked away in the bustling parade of shops that spans both sides of the road in the centre of the village sits the Chorleywood Bookshop.
Passing its small, unassuming façade, you could almost be forgiven for walking right past it and not realising the important part it plays in the life of the community or its status as a powerhouse in the independent bookselling industry.
Not to mention the fact that, bar the internet, it’s pretty much the only place you can buy a decent book if you live in the area.
All of this is being celebrated in its forthcoming programme of events to mark Independent Booksellers Week (June 28-July 5), which, cosied up in the tiny back room of the shop with a cup of tea, I am here to discuss with owners Sheryl Shurville, Morag Watkins and Martin McKean.
“It affects everything we do,“ says Morag, “online retailers, the rise of e-books, the closure of so many bookshops. I think it’s a big struggle for independent bookshops to stay on the map at all. There are only three left in Hertfordshire – three! That’s appalling. And nothing now in Watford.“
There has been an independent bookshop on the site on New Parade in Chorleywood for about 42 years, with Sheryl taking over 13 years ago and Morag, from Bovingdon, coming on board in 2006 from Chorleywood Library after helping Sheryl organise the first Chorleywood Literary Festival.
“It was doing very well when I took over,“ says Sheryl, who lives in Sarratt with partner Martin, “but it wasn’t as much a part of the community as it is now. I think that idea has evolved for us over the years. And now we’re thriving. There’s a buzz and an energy from the things we do, people come to us, they want to be involved.“
“People from Chorleywood say to us it’s a real part of the village’s life,“ agrees Morag.
The two women and Martin, who has helped out at the shop unofficially for years, but who officially joined the team just a month ago, are clear that this is what’s kept the shop going for so many years.
And this community spirit takes many forms: regular author events – they have welcomed some of the biggest names in literature to both book signings and the annual literary festival; providing books as prizes for events such as fetes in the village; taking the bookshop “on the road” to places like the nearby Cedars Village retirement village every Christmas; holding literary lunches; running book groups from the shop; providing books to local schools and literary events in Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and even further afield.
All of this work has paid off.
“In the last two years or so, there’s been a real turnaround,“ says Martin, “publishers are now approaching us, rather than us having to chase them. We’re actually now having to say ‘I can’t do that’ because it clashes with events we’ve already planned, or we can be more discerning.“
The bookshop won the South-East and East Region Independent Bookseller of the Year 2014 award, as well as Vintage Publisher Bookseller of the Year award in 2012.
“We’re being recognised for being really hard working,“ says Sheryl, “by other booksellers, by publishers, wholesalers. We really give it our all.“
The programme of events for Independent Booksellers Week includes a Girls’ Night In with authors Veronica Henry, Sheila O’Flanagan and Jill Mansell, with bubbly and a chocolate fountain; Caroline Taggart talking about her travel/cook book A Slice of Britain; and an author talk by crime novelist Peter James.
- Chorleywood Bookshop, New Parade, Chorleywood. Details: 01923 283566, chorleywoodbookshop.co.uk