One-of-a-kind children's book shop opening in town centre
- Credit: Danny Loo
Hitchin's brand new children's book shop, which prides itself in providing young families with a 'flipping good read', has opened its doors.
Next Page Books - which now occupies the old Boots Pharmacy store on Queen Street - opened with a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, September 25, with guests including town centre manager Tom Hardy and a special appearance from the Gruffalo himself.
Liz Tye, who owns and runs Next Page Books alongside business partner Julie Anderson, said of their opening day: "We've been very busy, and had families coming in and lots of events going on - it was really lovely!
"There was a lot of chat about where the Gruffalo was - he was quite a hit, I believe!" she joked.
Liz and Julie explained that the idea for Next Page Books had been in the works for a number of years, but the duo only started putting the pieces together to open their unique business venture at the start of this year.
"To see it actually in practice was quite overwhelming and emotional."
Julie added: "To be so busy was a relief, because you never know, and you always worry. There have been so many people supporting us and saying that this is just what Hitchin needs."
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Liz and Julie's unique new venture is the only of its kind for miles around, and is one of very few book shops that focuses on diversity and inclusion in the entire country.
"Although a lot of independent book shops make it their business to be as inclusive as possible, the fact that it's actually our specialism makes us quite unique!" Liz explained.
With Julie's decades of experience in children's publishing and Liz's primary school and SENCO background, the Hitchin-based pair - who met at baby class with their newborns almost 16 years ago - used their shared love of books to form the foundation of their book shop dream, with Liz noting that she loves "the power that books have when your experiences might differ from others around you".
"They make you feel comforted and that other people do share your experiences," she added.
The pandemic made Liz and Julie think 'why not do it now?' and egged them on to take the plunge; to go about starting their limited company, finding a town centre home and setting up shop.
Julie said of their Queen Street store: "It's really important for us to have decent accessibility; there are no steps, we have a button-press door. And inside, although we have displays around and about, we've tried to make sure that there's buggy and wheelchair manoeuvrability for those who need that as well."
"The good thing about this location is that there's a car park just over the road, which is all on one level as well," Liz added, noting that everyday obstacles that wouldn't get in the way for many, may be a barrier for young families or those with physical difference.
With Dan Bramall - more commonly known as 'the Scribbler' - designing the store's logo and mascot, children's book and Beano comic writer Danny Pearson bringing the Gruffalo to life and a special reading by Stevenage-based author Gemma Keir, the opening, and future of the book shop, aims to celebrate talent in and around North Herts on top of their core values.
Tom Hardy said of the Next Page Books' foundation in Hitchin: "It's nice to have a shop - a retail shop - that's a bit different. It's next to the Pear Tree Café, so they've got a really good connection down there with young children.
"It was very busy with storytelling, even the Gruffalo was there! It was a really good opening."
He added: "It's really good to see that people are still seeing Hitchin as a viable place to do business on the high street", highlighting that the opening of a children's book shop furthers the variety of businesses in the market town.
Liz and Julie are already working with schools to curate and establish diverse libraries, and supplying them with particular books to support some students with particular needs - as well as making links with independent publishers to find books on certain abilities...in a range of languages, too!
"We're really looking forward to being able to provide that service!"
For more information about Next Page Books, visit nextpagebooks.co.uk.