November Bookshop of the Month: Pickled Pepper Books (London)

Founded in 2012 by parents Steven Pryse and Urmi Merchant, Pickled Pepper Books was sparked by a desire to create a family-friendly space in which parents and children could enjoy that incomparable, tactile experience of choosing books together. Skip forward to 2021 and their welcoming shop in London’s Crouch End offers an exhilarating programme of author events, workshops and story times (alongside all those beautiful books, of course), with a recently-opened pop-up venue at the Culture Palace community arts space in Enfield Town heralding an inspired - and inspiring - collaboration with The Dugdale Theatre, Enfood Cafe and The Museum of Enfield.

Huge thanks to Urmi and Tara, manager of Pickled Pepper Books Crouch End, for taking the time to talk to us about their journey, and for sharing some top book recommendations. We couldn’t agree more with their belief that there’s no such thing as being too old to read children's books.

Describe your shop in three words.

Events, Children’s, Indie.

When was your bookshop born? How did it come about?

2012. We were our own customers! We lived in Crouch End and had two young children. Our local children’s bookshop closed in 2008 and we wanted to visit a local bookshop and take the kids to meet authors and see some theatre - so Pickled Pepper was born!

Tell us about your journey and the changes you’ve seen (and made) along the way.

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster to say the least and so much learning has taken place along the way. The dedicated theatre space in Crouch End came in 2017 and it’s made a huge difference to our business. We can host school groups and programme lots of public events. It really brings the shop and the books in it to life!

What’s important in a great children’s bookshop,? What sets you apart and makes you special? 

Staff knowledge and enthusiasm for books and our events make it a great environment for children, teens, and families.

What’s your all-time favourite picture book recommendation, and children’s fiction recommendation?

Urmi: for picture books it has to be Dogger by Shirley Hughes. It's so hard to pick a favourite for children's fiction but I love The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson. 

Tara: My favourite picture book is Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton, you just can't beat a great story about a naughty pet! For fiction I think I have to pick The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell. 

Which books have you been recommending recently?

We love Gustavo the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z Drago for our younger audience and have been enjoying African and Caribbean Folktales, Myths and Legends by Wendy Shearer. Both have been hugely popular; we can hardly keep them in stock! 

What’s your favourite area of your bookshop?

The picture book wall! 

What are you most proud of?

Our team!

Tell us a secret about books.

That there is no such thing as getting too old for children's books! 

Apart from your own, which other bookshop(s) do you love spending time in?

We love Nomad Books in Fulham and Tales on Moon Lane in Herne Hill.

What else would you like to share with the LoveReading community?

That we absolutely love talking to people about books, and the LoveReading community are always welcome to pop in and have a chat about our latest favourites! 

Discover more:

Pickled Pepper Book website

Crouch End events

Enfield events

Twitter @pickledbooks

Facebook @pickledbooks

Instagram @pickledpepperbooks

And head here to read our other Bookshop of the Month profiles.

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