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‘My shop has been closed longer than it was open’

PUBLISHED: 13:00 24 April 2020

Shop owner Andrew Marsh outside the property on Ipswich's Dial Lane earlier this year PICTURE: The Ipswich Society

Shop owner Andrew Marsh outside the property on Ipswich's Dial Lane earlier this year PICTURE: The Ipswich Society

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With Dial Lane Books shut for the foreseeable future, owner Andrew Marsh has launched a quirky new book club and is getting the latest releases to peoples’ doors

Shop owner Andrew Marsh outside the property on Ipswich's Dial Lane earlier this year PICTURE: The Ipswich SocietyShop owner Andrew Marsh outside the property on Ipswich's Dial Lane earlier this year PICTURE: The Ipswich Society

Having opened Dial Lane Books in March, Andrew Marsh’s town centre shop saw booming business after its grand opening. “I only opened for business on March 3, following an epic launch party on February 28,” he said.

“There were easily a hundred people in attendance. The shop was officially opened by the Lady Mayor, and there was a string quartet as well as awesome local musician Curtis Garrett. My first week was absolutely incredible in every possible way, and I hosted my first (and to date only) author event with the incredibly talented and lovely Sophie Green doing a reading and signing,” continued Andrew.

But with the Coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown that shortly followed, Andrew had a tough decision to make.

“While I knew what was going on and the likelihood of a lockdown, I must admit to feeling shocked and overwhelmed by the whole situation,” he said. “The weekend prior to the lockdown saw a couple of my friends’ business shut up shop until all of this blew over, and while feeling very sad and sorry for them, I guess in my head I didn’t think it would happen to me. I didn’t want to be the last business standing in Dial Lane, though equally I was still the new boy and the thought of shutting my three-week old shop was not an idea I wanted to entertain.

A selection of books available at Dial Lane Books Picture: Andrew MarshA selection of books available at Dial Lane Books Picture: Andrew Marsh

“On Monday 23 March, I boxed up loads of books, unplugged my till and computer, and loaded everything into the car in a bit of a daze. Dial Lane Books has been a dream of mine for over thirty years, and now, as it stands, my shop has been closed longer than it was open.”

Taking his work home with him, Andrew had a brainwave that would allow him to safely sell books to the local community. “There was no way I wasn’t going to continue to do, in some small way, what I had waited over thirty years to do, and that was to sell books,” he said.

“The free local delivery idea was a no-brainer. There was a great deal of enthusiasm and support from the off and has continued to pretty much the same extent ever since.

“Getting out and leaving bagged books by folks’ doorsteps, knocking and then fleeing to a safe distance may not have been in my business plan, but I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed meeting my customers in another way and having a chat for a minute or two really made the fact that my shop was closed more bearable. It was also extremely obvious that the customers were immensely grateful and thankful that I was doing this – and you can’t put a price on that kind of good feeling and goodwill,” Andrew said.

The first featured book club reads - The Levelled by Jon Bryant and Mendelevski's Box by Roger Swindells Picture: The Book Reality Experience / Amsterdam PublishersThe first featured book club reads - The Levelled by Jon Bryant and Mendelevski's Box by Roger Swindells Picture: The Book Reality Experience / Amsterdam Publishers

Initially offering a delivery service to those with IP1-1P5 postcodes, Andrew has extended that to further afield. “If it’s got an IP postcode then in all likelihood I’ll deliver in person,” he said.

“While I have and will post books to outside of Ipswich, the way I see it is that I’m an Ipswich bookshop for Ipswich people. Especially during the current situation when people are struggling with boredom and fatigue in lockdown.”

Thinking outside of the box, the next business step was to create a book club for his loyal customers – but with a twist.

Andrew said: “The book club was something I had always planned to do, but I never wanted to do it simply because I had a bookshop and therefore because it was kind of expected.

“The idea of ‘Books & Buff Tags’ (or the ‘Not Another Book Group’ book group) is that you buy the book from me and instead of a wine-fuelled meet-up to discuss, dissect and score the book, you simply write a review on a buff-tag. Then I select my favourite review to become the official shop review of the book.”

Kicking off Andrew’s book club is The Levelled by local author Jon Bryant. “I’m chuffed to have had over 25 people buy a copy of the book,” he said. “The reviews have started coming in now, and it’s clear that people like the different way it’s done.”

“The second book will also be by a local author, Roger Swindells with Mendelevski’s Box,” Andrew added. “It’s a tale of an Auschwitz survivor’s return to Amsterdam in a desperate search for his friends, family and neighbours.”

If you wish to join Dial Lane Books’ Books & Buff Tags book club, contact Andrew via Instagram at @dial_lane_books, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/diallanebooks/ for a copy of the book with a free buff tag to write your review on.

You may also want to watch:

For more information, head to Dial Lane Books’ website.

Andrew Marsh’s book recommendations

Thornhill by Pam Smy

“This is one book that I am a massive fan of and am promoting at every chance. It’s a stunningly beautiful book with the most amazing illustrations. Part ghostly, part mystery, part graphic novel. This book really does have it all.”

Book of Play by Michael Rosen

“In the current climate, this book is needed and opens up the mind to the idea of play in many different forms.”

The Levelled by Jon Bryans

“Jon Bryans’ debut novel is a dark tale of mental disintegration, loss, and the harsh realities of homelessness.”

Mendelevski’s Box by Roger Swindells

“This is the story of Auschwitz survivor Mendelevski who returns to Amsterdam looking for friends, family and answers.”

The Unschooled Life by Lizi Gambell

“A book on advice and guidance for any parent on a home education journey.”

Icon Introducing

“This incredibly wide-ranging series of graphic guides are not only incredibly detailed and enlightening, but they can also make your brain itch too. What more do you need from subjects such as Quantum Theory, Nietzsche, and Critical Theory?”

‘As for me … I’m currently reading:’

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

Incidental Inventions by Elena Ferrante


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