We talk mindful parenting and children's publishing with co-founder Hannah Limming
When it comes to suburbia, Chapel Allerton is indisputably one the most covetable areas of hip and happening Leeds. Having built its own ecosystem of high-performing schools, trendy eateries and arts centres, any new opening in the area is one that is treated with considerable interest; particularly ones that manage to blend high-end style with community spirit.
Opened in late 2017, The Little Bookshop is a children’s bookshop, café and workshop space in the heart of the area. Guests large and small can snack on teddy bear toast, take part in a workshop or enjoy book-signing visits from the likes of Deliciously Ella. Put simply, it’s the stuff of parent dreams during the long summer holidays, as accommodating to laptop workers as it is tiny infants.
Although it's not something we set out to do we've certainly become a hub in the community
Bringing in her experience from running Pop-Up And Play, the city-based children’s events company, Hannah Limming and her colleagues have created an immersive, stylish store that celebrates one of the simplest pleasures in life - the act of devouring a good book in a warm, comforting environment. We asked how they did it…
Hi Hannah! Tell us a bit about your background - how did you get into bookselling?
Hl: "None of us had worked in the book industry, but all had young children, and we love reading and sharing books with our families. Cheryl Duffing had the idea to open the shop and we fell in love with the idea instantly. Lou Fenton, my co-worker at Pop Up And Play, completes our team."
What was your biggest challenge in finding a space?
HL: "Chapel Allerton is a really sought-after area for property, both residential and retail. We lost out on a few properties we'd heard about on the grapevine before they'd even gone onto the market. We hadn't had a retail business before and landlords wanted a record of success, but got a lease re-assignment after working with a great chartered surveyor and lawyer."
What does an average day in the life of Cheryl, Hannah and Lou look like?
Hl: "We all work in the shop through the week and all have varying roles where we play to our strengths. Day to day our main job (and the funnest part) is helping customers find what they want. It sounds simple but, with thousands of products, it feels so good to seek out the exact thing; whether it's a book for a school project, to encourage a reluctant reader or to help a child deal with bereavement.
"We run a full cafe service, do a story time everyday and take care of all the usual things associated with running a business; working with our staff, taking care of finances and dealing with suppliers."
Is catering to the modern parent something you were mindful of when setting up shop?
HL: "Although it's not something we set out to do we've certainly become a hub in the community to get a spot of work done while your toddler is asleep in the pushchair and you’re enjoying an awesome latte. We certainly encourage community and support, whether that's using the space as a place to catch up on some work, or to meet with friends."
Almost everything involved in the food and its interiors is locally sourced - is it important to you to maintain this distinct ‘Leeds’ feel?
HL: "That definitely is something we intentionally set out to do. We knew there were certain companies we wanted to work with because of their style, or ethics. We worked with Revive and Buttercrumble on the design, North Star supply our coffee and Leeds Bread Coop supply our bread. We work with some awesome cooks and bakers - Jane Lawson and Caroline's Cakes. All these relationships make working fun and easy, our suppliers understand what we're trying to achieve and support us in doing that."
What are your favourite items in stock right now?
HL "For small readers we'd really recommend anything by Rachel Bright and Jim Field: we've been reading their books The Koala Who Could and The Lion Inside a lot at story time recently and children and adults love them. Sophy Henn has just made her debut in junior fiction, and her first chapter book Bad Nana is a brilliant read, perfect for bridging the Key Stage One and Two gap. For teens we're really enjoying Scarlett Thomas' latest book The Chosen Ones.
What top tips would you give to parents looking to widen their child’s horizons with interactive learning?
HL: "Ultimately it comes down to fun and interactive experience. Our free daily story time is really popular, it's a chance to share a story but also the children are keen to add value by talking about their experiences of the topic or theme. We share stories about everything from animals and looking after the world, celebrating pride or Ramadan and doing lots of singing to keep wee ones engaged. Children enjoy spending that time sat on their parents' or grandparents' lap sharing a story together, it's a lovely experience to share every day.
The Little Bookshop, 47 Harrogate Rd, Leeds, LS7 3PD