An award-winning Letchworth business has been bought by its staff and has become an employee ownership trust, it has emerged.

The beloved David’s Bookshop, in Eastcheap, is thought to be one of the country’s first independent bookshops to convert to an employee owned structure – a move welcomed by staff during these unprecedented times.

Long-standing owner Paul Wallace – who bought the business from the founding Armitage family in 2009 – has stepped down, leading the business to remodel as an employee ownership trust. This means that a trust holds the shares in the company on behalf of employees, who run the day-to-day business and share profits.

David’s has confirmed that the changeover is unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic, and has been in planning for many months.

One of Britain’s leading independent book sellers, David’s has grown to incorporate three popular separate shops – a successful record store, a café, and most recently, a selection of board games and role-playing games.

Future plans include enhancing the shop’s online sales and building on its successful bike delivery service which began at the middle of lockdown.

The café also plans to create a local buzz with board game afternoons, quiz nights, and an alcohol licence.

Andy Oaten, who has worked at David’s for 36 years – and is now finance director – said: “The staff are already embracing the employee ownership trust ethos and the additional input from all sides will be invaluable for our future success.

“The prospect of profit sharing is an incentive but we have a fully committed and talented team in place already, which is a huge bonus in itself. With this – and the added increase in our social media presence – we can only see a bright future for David’s.”

Kai Savage, managing director with 19 years in the book trade – seven of them at David’s – added: “The new set up will harness staff input and enthusiasm, creating a flow of new ideas to keep the business developing while maintaining David’s long-standing community engagement ethos.”

The café is increasing its outside seating during the pandemic to enable social distancing, while the bookshop has erected browsing stations outside to avoid overcrowding in the store.