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Community bookshop in Woodford Green thriving under new ownership

Village bookshop owner Saba Rais in her shop Village bookshop owner Saba Rais in her shop

Sunday, March 9, 2014
9:00 AM

Owning a bookshop is a romantic notion for many keen readers.

But in reality, taking the leap can be daunting, as independent and larger booksellers continue to lose out to the internet and supermarkets.

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Village bookshop owner Saba Rais in her shopVillage bookshop owner Saba Rais in her shop

The number of UK independent bookshops has dipped below 1,000 for the first time since records began, with 67 closing their doors for the final time last year.

But despite this doom and gloom, one Woodford Green woman has realised her dream of owning an independent and she is determined it will remain a pillar of the community for years to come.

Saba Rais took over The Village Bookshop, in High Road, in December and she hasn’t looked back since.

“It is brilliant,” she said. “I have always loved books ever since I was really little and it is so amazing to have my own shop.”

The Village bookshop in Woodford GreenThe Village bookshop in Woodford Green

Saba, who grew up in Woodford Green and lives just across the road from the store, began her new life when she left behind her 12-year career as a tax lawyer to work on her first novel and study for a master’s degree.

She came across the bookshop by chance and took a part-time job. After less than a month, owner Tan Dhillon, 39, who had ran it for less than a year, asked her if she wanted to take it over.

“It was like a dream come true. I had fallen out of love with being a lawyer and you can’t do it half-heartedly,” she said.

In the short time she has been in charge, Saba has completely refurbished the shop and is soon to open a reading room.

Another key aspect of her vision is widening the shop’s links with the community. Not content with just setting up book clubs and inviting schoolchildren into the store, Saba is hoping to hold a literary festival.

“It would be over the summer holidays and aimed at children, with a lot of activities with illustrators and authors.

“It would not only be talking about books; we also want to encourage children to improve their writing. At the moment I have got a couple of people lined up, with one or two big names, but I don’t want to say just yet. It will be a big surprise.”

Saba, who works with three part-time “lovely ladies,” believes the charm of independent bookshops is down to the staff and their personal touch.

As well as making sure books customers have ordered are in the shop for the next day, the shop has also begun trialling a book subscription service.

Despite the difficult economic climate, Saba is confident the store will thrive.

“I think the bookshop will be absolutely fine. People here love reading and there is a real sense of family.

“The community have been marvellous, really supportive, and it is wonderful that they are happy to see us here.”

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