Sarah McIntyre (jabberworks) wrote,
Sarah McIntyre

Kevin interviews: The Portobello Bookshop

Kevin loved Scotland - the shining lochs, the shortbread, the heather-covered mountains, the kindly people, the shortbread… He made several shortbread stops as he flew east from Islay, and of course he had to make a detour to the Tunnocks factory, but before too long he reached Edinburgh. It was the biggest city Kevin had ever flown over: he got a bit confused by all the streets and towers and turrets, and accidentally knocked the top off something called the Scott Memorial, but he didn’t think anybody noticed.

It turned out Edinburgh had a seaside bit called Portobello, with a wide sandy beach, and that was where he found The Portobello Bookshop. He landed outside, and bookseller Alice invited him for biscuits and questions.

Kevin: What is the best thing about being a bookseller?

Alice: The people I work with! It's always a pleasure going to the bookshop and working alongside such brilliant colleagues. Bookselling is also a very versatile and fulfilling job which allows you (and very much encourages you) to think creatively. And naturally, being able to find the perfect book for a customer is always joyful.

Kevin: What's one way you've tackled a problem that your bookshop has faced during the pandemic?

Alice: I’m not sure I can pinpoint a single problem - obviously the past year and a half has been challenging, especially that the bookshop had only been open for 7 months when we went into lockdown. I think it was more about adapting to the situation, finding ways to run the bookshop online whilst making the best decisions for our staff and community. We also started running online events last summer, which have been a great way to connect authors and readers, and foster the community spirit that was somehow lost whilst the bookshop was closed.

Kevin: What are three books you absolutely love hand-selling to customers?

Alice: The playful picture books of Hervé Tullet, Elle McNicoll's excellent children's novels, and the very funny picture book Choose Llamas.

Kevin: Who’s your favourite children's book illustrator (other than Reeve & McIntyre)?

Alice: It’s difficult to pick just one! In Portobello and Edinburgh, we're lucky to have amazing children's book illustrators who have painted our shop window: Eilidh Muldoon, who also designed the beautiful mural in our kids' room, Anna Doherty and Emily Mackenzie.

Kevin: What is your favourite biscuit?

Alice: Digestive

Kevin: Ooh, good choice. Simple but oddly more-ish. Do you have a shop pet?

Alice: We don't but Portobello is a very dog-friendly place, so we're lucky to have befriended many dogs over the past couple of years!

Kevin: What is the best way for people to buy books from you, if they can't visit the shop in person?

Alice: Just visit our website at

Kevin: Thank you! Do you mind if I finish off those digestives?

You can follow The Portobello Bookshop on Twitter - @PortyBooks - and Instagram - portybooks! And follow the tour at #ReeveAndMcIntyreBigUpBookshops.

Tags: #reeveandmcintyrebigupbookshops, bookshop, roly_poly_flying_pony

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