Embattled bookshop brews up survival bid

A CLOSURE-THREATENED Morpeth bookshop that has been trading for more than a hundred years may be saved with plans to add a café.

Appleby’s Bookshop in Newgate Street has been trading since 1886 and has been in the hands of the Wallace family for 30 years.

But in February owners Tim and Alice Wallace announced that it was to close following plummeting trade due to town centre roadworks, parking charges and competition from national retailers.

Now though, there are fresh hopes of keeping the family business alive if permission to add a café on the ground floor gets the go ahead from Northumberland County Council.

Mr Wallace, 49, said: “There is a possibility that we are staying open now. We would like to keep the business open due to the public feeling and the public demand.

“It was a hard decision to close, but we looked at it in the broad light of day and felt we just couldn’t go on any further and weren’t going to put more money into it. Since then, we have had a half-price sale and that has helped a great deal so we are going to continue the sale until the decision comes through for the café.

“The sooner, the better as far as the decision goes and we are looking for support from the council, especially after the roadworks. If we don’t get permission for the café we will have to close, we haven’t any choice.”

If approved, the café would initially begin with about a dozen tables. The shop would have to close for about three weeks while it was installed and there would also be a full-scale refurbishment, including re-painting and new signage.

“The café is just to add to the business, we are not trying to compete with anybody. Other cafés will have a greater range of stuff than we are trying to do, it is just an added element that goes with bookshops these days,” said Mr Wallace.

“There is a bit of uncertainty because we have never managed a coffee shop before.”

The decision to try to keep the business going has come following a massive show of support from the public.

The Herald received letters from people expressing their disappointment at news of the closure and many more called into the shop, overwhelming the owners with their enthusiasm for the store.

Mr Wallace said: “We have had chocolates, gifts, flowers, kisses, hugs — people have even been in tears.

“We have had people coming from miles around just to get something while we are still here and show their support. We have been totally taken aback by it all.

“It is just a small bookshop in a small market town, but the level of feeling has been overwhelming.”

The shop is still taking orders for books and buying new stock until the café plans are resolved, while the half-price sale continues.

Mrs Wallace said: “We need the support from customers to keep the shop open.

“We have had second thoughts because of the customers’ support and we could see how people were upset when we said we were closing.

“If people have any ideas of things they would like us to do in future, they are most welcome to bring them to us.

“At the moment it is business as usual and if there is any change we will keep customers informed.

“We would like to thank everybody who has supported Appleby’s Bookshop all these years.”

The application for a café was submitted yesterday.