A couple of days ago we reported that a bookshop once owned by the real Christopher Robin was closing.
The Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth, England, was opened in 1951 by Christopher Robin Milne, son of Winnie-the-Pooh author A.A. Milne. The author used his son as a character in his books. Christopher Robin died in 1996, and rising rents and a slump in sales are forcing the current owners to close in September.
Now the local paper Dartmouth Chronicle reports that people are rallying to save the shop. The Dartmouth and Kingswear Society, a heritage preservation group, is suggesting the bookshop be continued as a nonprofit community enterprise. Considering the shop’s historical significance, they might be able to get some government funding, although with the current fiscal situation that will be a tough fight.
TV personality Jonathan Dimbleby has also joined the growing call for the shop to be saved.
I hope they succeed. Independent bookshops are places for readers to mingle and discover titles they didn’t know they were looking for. They add character to their neighborhoods and can be a significant tourist draw, as The Harbour Bookshop was. I’ve seen way too many beloved bookshops close. New York City in the 1980s was filled with funky little independents, now mostly gone due to the Big Apple’s soaring rents. Here in Oxford, Waterfield’s closed. They still have an online presence but it’s not the same as popping in before a day’s work at the university. It’s been replaced by Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe. I wonder if the tourists who swarm in there realize this “Ye Olde Shoppe” is less than two years old!
It’s not just bookshops that are affected. Small businesses on English High Streets are dying and being replaced with chains, homogenizing and depersonalizing the places where people live and shop. Here’s hoping the campaigners can preserve some of Dartmouth’s character.
[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]