30th March 2022
Gavin Smith, senior associate at THRINGS meets Nic Bottomley, founder of MR B’S
Gavin Smith: Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, or Mr B’s as it is affectionately known, is something of a Bath institution. But for those not familiar with the business, how would you describe it?
Nic Bottomley: Mr B’s is an independent bookshop where conversations about books are ever-present. The atmosphere is informal and friendly, and knowledge of books is all pervading.
GS: I believe you and your wife were corporate lawyers before the birth of Mr B’s. What made you ditch the legal life and try something so completely different?
NB: It’s true, we were both lawyers, and although we liked some things about that lifestyle, we both knew we wanted to do something we loved.
GS: So how did the dream become a reality?
NB: A trip to the fabulous Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle blew us away. From that moment we knew we wanted to open a bookstore with a difference – and in 2006, that’s exactly what we did.
GS: Had you any experience of selling books prior to this?
NB: None whatsoever. It was sheer blind faith which carried us along and made us believe we were doing the right thing.
GS: You must have done something right because here you are 16 years later with a national and international following. What do you think makes Mr B’s so special?
NB: 100 per cent it is our booksellers. Yes, we sell a great selection of books, and yes, the building is weirdly wonderful but it’s the booksellers themselves who make the whole experience such a joy. We are lucky to have people working with us who love books, who can talk well about books and who, above all, engage visitors into the magic of reading.
GS: It’s not just selling books though is it – you also stage events? NB: Over the years we have created all sorts of experiences based around books. We’ve had the sci-fi book club (the Emporium Strikes Back); the walking book club (The Paperback Ramblers); and the now-famous Bookshop Band who started their musical journey here at Mr B’s. And, of course, we are big fans of World Book Day.
GS: How important do you think it is for children to read and love books?
NB: Every child should experience books – they bring escape, fulfilment, adventure, delight. It’s up to booksellers to make their stores as accessible, fun and irreverent as possible, and to find a way to bring in those children who think they’re not readers and show them the magic of books.
GS: What do you like most about your job?
NB: I love the variety. I am involved with many aspects of the book industry outside of the store and each of those roles brings something interesting. But most of all I love being on the shop floor and meeting and talking to customers – it is the beating heart of our business.
If you would like any more information on any subject from this article please contact Gavin Smith.