This month Julie Redmond interviews Brett Wolstencroff, who co-founded the Daunt Books at its flagship Marylebone shop in 1990 with James Daunt. Find out how he began and how he is finding trade through the present crisis.
Where did Daunt books begin?
I joined Daunt Books Marylebone 30 years ago when it opened its doors in 1990.
The high street was far less vibrant than it is today, it was a forgotten but elegant backwater.
It got worse for a few years; it certainly did not have the village feel like it has today. Then it changed a lot, it became more residential, and Gap arrived and then The Conran Shop and Waitrose and Daunt Books at the heart.
Q. How has the last year been for you?
Retail is struggling to pay rent and rates have gone up.
Despite what you hear, book shops have struggled. It has been difficult as we have not been able to provide service and people cannot browse. Since reopening it is like we are back in the 1990s, we have no tourists coming, no office workers and people who would have previously come to London and come to Daunt as a destination shopping experience do not anymore.
Q. What is the most popular section in Daunt Books Marylebone at present?
We have a big travel section and guidebooks have always been popular but now it is all about
British guidebooks. Escapism books have been popular, books on fiction. It is a rich moment where people have rediscovered the pleasure of reading.
Q. What book are you currently reading?
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, a New York Times best seller, a historical book and unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life.
Q. Tell me about the authors/books in the window?
Natalia Ginzberg, an Italian author, is fantastic. We publish her. Her work explores family relationships, politics during and after the fascist years and World War 2, and philosophy. The Dry Heart and The Road to the city are in the window today. She has been hugely successful.
A lot of authors have written about her.
Then there is Bear, written by Canadian author Marian Engel. We also publish her work. The story tells of a lonely librarian in Northern Ontario who enters a sexual relationship with a bear.
The Marylebone Association
229 Great Portland Street