Located in the picturesque county of Pembrokeshire, in the heart of Haverfordwest - a lively riverside town with a mighty Norman castle - Victoria Bookshop has been serving local booklovers in one form or another since 1891.
Pembrokeshire’s epic landscape and friendly vibe is matched by Victoria Bookshop’s epic customer service and friendly staff - and that’s no word of a lie. I can personally vouch for the shop’s longstanding commitment to top-class customer service - some moons ago, a helpful bookseller patiently sourced a big bunch of obscure books that were on my pre-university reading list, and managed to get them to me in good time. Now that’s what I call customer service! - an ethos that continues today through the shop’s knowledgeable, dedicated staff.
Alongside providing local readers with a broad range of books to quench their literary thirsts, and offering visitors lots of local interest titles to enhance their time in Pembrokeshire, Victoria Bookshop regularly hosts well-attended author events, with past presenters including elite figures from Welsh culture and sport, among them rugby icon Sir Gareth Edwards.
Huge thanks to book buyer Bethan Mason and store owner Mr Marley Davies for taking the time to share their story - read on to find out more about this treasure of a bookshop, located in one of the UK’s most treasured beauty spots.
Describe your shop in three words.
Fun, local, friendly.
When was your bookshop born? How did it come about?
The bookshop was born in 1891. I believe it started life as Stationers, Newsagents, Greeting Cards, Confectionery and Tobacco.
Tell us about your journey and the changes you’ve seen (and made) along the way.
I purchased the shop on 1st May 1981. It traded very much as a newsagent with very few books. The shop was under-stocked, so we spent the next few years building up all parts of the business and the services we offered. It then became clear that the business was outgrowing the space we had in the shop. With the book department growing quickly, we decided to expand it by opening up the first floor. This meant knocking down walls to make three rooms into one area, which became the new bookshop and allowed us to expand the other departments on the ground floor.
In the early-to-mid-nineties we again decided we had outgrown the building and, being on the wrong side of a busy road - which was getting busier - we decided it was time to move the business to a new location.
So, we came to the new premises in Bridge Street in March 1996, where we’ve been ever since. CDs and DVDs have come and gone, but the desire to shop local seems to have grown stronger over the past few years.
What’s important in a great bookshop,? What sets you apart and makes you special?
Good knowledge and the right stock for your area. Being so far away from London, there are so many books that are just not right for us.
The staff set us apart. We are all different, from different walks of life and all have different interests. We are nothing without them.
What’s your all-time favourite…
-novel to recommend to adults?
The Hourglass by Tracy Rees, it is such beautiful story of generations, set in Tenby.
-non-fiction to recommend to adults?
Anything by Matt Haig, he can help so many people through his writing. It’s not to be underestimated.
-picture book recommendation?
Ten Minutes To Bed Little Unicorn, Mermaid, Dinosaur etc – they are great fun!
-children’s fiction recommendation?
The Beast and the Bethany, because it’s full of perfect macabre humour for any child.
Which books have you been recommending recently?
What’s your favourite area of your bookshop?
The local interest section - it has all kinds of weird and wonderful books, full of local knowledge. I’m always learning something new about Pembrokeshire.
What are you most proud of?
People loving the books I have recommended to them. It’s not an exact science and sometimes they can be sceptical, but end up loving the book. Also, that we’re still going strong in the street - it’s a tough time for any high street.
Tell us a secret about books.
They can teach you anything and everything.
Apart from your own shop, which other bookshop(s) do you love spending time in?
I don’t get much of a chance - our nearest one is about 30 miles away.
What else would you like to share with the LoveReading community?
We all share a love of physical books. Pop in when you are down on holiday in Pembrokeshire - you are sure to be surprised by everything we sell.
Be sure to pay Victoria Bookshop a visit if you have the pleasure of visiting Pembrokeshire. In the meantime, check-out their page on Hive (an umbrella site for independent bookshops), follow them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/VictoriaBookshop), or take a look at their tweets (@Victoria_Books)
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