‘You must go here’, said Sue, waving a leaflet for The Mainstreet Trading Company at me. I had asked Sue Beck, owner of Hendersyde Holiday Cottages, for her recommendations on places to visit during our one day in the Borders. As a bookworm, I couldn’t have been happier when Sue suggested this bookshop (while my husband was equally delighted to learn that there was also a café, plus a deli and home shop). As I turned over the leaflet, I saw a quote from Maggie O’Farrell: ‘A bookshop so perfect, you might have dreamt it’. And, truly, this is not an overstatement – I was completely charmed from the moment I walked in.
Why did I love this bookshop above all others? Perhaps because of its emphasis on children’s books (as a bookworm and a mother, I inevitably spend a lot of time browsing books for my son); perhaps because of the lovely café, with the inviting smell of coffee wafting over and drawing me towards the home-baking; mostly because this shop clearly celebrates books and the joy to be found in buying, reading and listening to them. I also loved the personal touch, stamped throughout the shop, from the bunting strung overhead (‘Stop what you’re doing and read this!’) and the paper birds caught in mid-flight in one of the windows, to ‘The Book Burrows’ (two under-stair cupboards that have been transformed into ‘audio book dens’ for children to enjoy). The whole experience was enticing, hugely enjoyable and left this bookworm a-glow.
It will be of no surprise to learn that others have been just as charmed as I and in 2012 the bookshop was awarded ‘Independent Bookshop of the Year’ at the Bookseller Industry Awards and ‘Best Bookshop’ award at the 2012 Telegraph Best Small Shops Awards.
I contacted owners Rosamund and Bill on my return to ask a few questions about The Mainstreet Trading Company and to find out what tips they have for visiting the beautiful Borders.
Do you have a favourite time of year in the shop?
It would have to be Christmas, there is always such a buzz in the shop and I love having the wood burning stove going in the homeware department.
What books did you love as a child?
I’m afraid I was addicted to pony books! One classic I came across in my twenties but wish I’d read earlier is ‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith.
What inspired you to create the ‘Book Burrows’?
As a family, audio books have been the saviour of many a car journey with bored children. We are lucky to have lots of storage space at Mainstreet and so the two deep cupboards were always ear-marked to create listening dens for children’s audio books. The characterisation into Mrs Rabbit’s Kitchen and Mr Fox’s lair came about with inspiration from Phillippa (one of our team) who cleverly painted the walls. Along with Shaun, she also created the ‘secret’ home of the borrowers embedded in the floor of Mrs Rabbit’s Kitchen burrow – we love hearing children discover something hidden under the carpet…
What book are you discussing in your book group at the moment?
We’ve just had our daytime group meeting today discussing Alistair Moffat’s ‘The Reivers: The Story of the Border Reivers’, which went down very well.
Can you tell us about any upcoming author events?
On Tues 26th November, we have Simon Winder talking about his book, ‘Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe’ – he promises to be very entertaining and quirky, much like his subject. We also have a lovely event on Saturday 30th Nov – Lari Don and illustrator Cate James will be doing a children’s event for their beautiful retelling of ‘Scottish Folk Tales, Breaking the Spell‘. Details are all on our website, www.mainstreetbooks.co.uk.
Do you have any special events planned for Christmas?
We had our Christmas Shopping Night in early November, going into December, we open seven days a week and late nights on Thursdays. This year for the first time, we’re launching literary themed hampers – follow us on Twitter @mainstreethare to find out more.
What are your future plans for The Mainstreet Trading Company?
We have lots of future plans, and happily there is space to grow. At the moment though, we’re consolidating with the deli and home shop just a year old, but watch this space.
What is your favourite walk in the area?
Rather lazily, I love the walk between the shop and home – along the Tweed towards Mertoun.
What are your highlights of the Borders?
A visit to the newly reopened Abbotsford House and Visitor’s Centre, a walk up the Eildons, followed by dinner at the Cross Keys in Ancrum.
Do you have a tip for visitors to the St Boswells area that they might not find in a guidebook?
Give yourself a bit more than just the weekend and, if possible, do as much by foot as car.
Where in Scotland do you like to holiday?
We always go to my mother’s cottage in Machrihanish on the west coast; you can see Ireland on a clear day, the beaches are deserted and the sunsets spectacular!