27th June 2018

Independent Bookshop Week 2018 – Q&A with Jules Button, Woodbridge Emporium

Last week was Independent Bookshop Week, part of the 'Books Are My Bag' campaign, which seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. At the heart of this initiative is the recognition of bookshops and their sellers as valuable additions to the community, whose passion and dedication to books can inspire a lifetime love of reading. In honour of this important campaign, we caught up with local bookseller and tea expert, Jules Button, owner of Woodbridge Emporium.

Tell us a bit about Woodbridge Emporium and what makes it so unique …

After launching last May, Woodbridge Emporium has already established itself as a firm favourite amongst Woodbridge book lovers. The shop trades in both new and second-hand books, as well as signed copies and first editions, across a range encompassing fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. Alongside books and gifts, Jules and her team specialise in loose leaf teas, which perfectly complement the former through their unique ‘tea and book pairing’ service. 

With their book collection ever-growing, Jules prides the Emporium’s diverse range of children’s books as a key part of their bookshop success. With many of their books catering for a range of different learning needs, Jules’ support of diversity is evident in her eclectic book selection, which is representative of the diverse and multi-cultural society we live in.


When did you first become a bookseller?

Jules is a qualified herbalist and aromatherapist, having previously ran a health store, The Rainbow Apothecary. Selling books may be a new venture for her, but it’s one that wasn’t without practical reason. After collecting books for years and building what Jules describes as a ‘house like a library’, her children unofficially banned her from buying any more, resulting in Jules thinking ‘how do I get around this?’ And voilà, Woodbridge Emporium was born!


What is your earliest memory of books?

Jules understood the inspirational power of books from a young age. Forever a creative and ahead of the trends wave, her favourite activity was to play dressing up by cutting the dresses out of fashion activity books, which she says were usually unicorn based!


What do you love the most about working in an independent bookshop?

Alongside the many different people that Jules gets to meet on a daily basis, she loves the diversity that is ever-present in their questions to her. Such unique requests lead to Jules assuming the role of a ‘book detective’, where meaningful relationships are built through the personalised and exploratory service that she offers as an independent bookseller. In short, Jules loves that books will inspire and help with the ‘expansion of that person’ in some way, shape or form. She added: ‘I wanted to be able to empower people more and books are very important in people’s lives. You smell a book, you touch a book, you can feel it, you can become it; you can’t do that on e-readers and Kindles and I feel we have lost something because of that. The books are now coming back in and so I thought that’s my way to get the message out to people, it’s through books.’

Tell us a typical day in the life of a bookseller … 
After a cup of the Emporium’s finest loose-leaf tea to start the day, Jules begins by checking social media and seeing which topics and themes are trending in the world that day. According to Jules, this process is integral to them upholding their capacity to be reactive as booksellers and ‘… ready to promote events as they happen.’ After a sweep and tidy of the shop, alongside the usual stock taking, the doors open to the world and as Jules says, they ‘never know what or who will come in!’. The life of a bookseller is not without its struggles, however. When asked about the difficulties associated with running an independent bookshop, Jules says there is a hard balance to be struck between adopting a ‘no boundaries’ approach to promoting books whilst also remaining conservative in their book selection. Furthermore, the tendency to overlook Indie bookshops in favour of the bigger bookshop chains is a pattern which can negatively impact booksellers, but one that can be alleviated through unique offerings such as their ‘tea and book’ service and children’s book reading events.
Any exciting events in the pipeline for Woodbridge Emporium?
In a word, yes! Fans of YA and adult author Anthony Horowitz will be excited to hear that he will be making an appearance at the bookshop towards the end of the year. Watch this space!
Thank you for being our #bookshophero, Jules! For more information on Woodbridge Emporium, visit their website. You can also find them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to keep up with all the latest bookish emporium news!

'I wanted to be able to empower people more and books are very important in people's lives. You smell a book, you touch a book, you can feel it, you can become it ...'