The Guardian, 22 May 2006
6 Broadway Market, Hackney, London E8
Jane Howe cheered me up. She opened the Broadway Bookshop in Hackney last November, and it's the sort of place that captivates you as soon as you walk through the door. She says it's going "fantastically", though admits she doesn't know how fantastically because her accountant is just calculating the small matters of turnover and profit. She is definitely a booklover rather than a bean-counter, but you sense her love is so intense that the beans will look after themselves.
Howe had been in bookselling, at three different shops, for 15 years, and last year decided to take the plunge and set up on her own. "It was now or never," she says. She was planning to open a shop in fashionable Brick Lane in the East End, but then discovered Broadway Market. "The moment I saw this shop and the market, I knew it was better than Brick Lane for a bookshop because it's a community street. I came and sat in the pubs and the bars for a few evenings to see what kind of people lived here, and they were all between 25 and 35. I would listen to their conversations and they would all talk about making films or making dresses and about writing, so I sussed my clientele."
That clientele is highly literate and has a taste for the recherché, but doesn't necessarily have much money. "I don't stock big coffee-table books," says Howe, "because nobody would buy them, and I don't stock many art books because they're actually artists rather than people who want a book with nice pictures on the table." What she does stock is stuff she likes herself. "Everything in my shop I want to read myself. Obviously you don't have time to read them all, but I've got a pretty good idea of what's in most of them. It's what I want to read and what I think they want to read. Mainly those two things tally. I don't often get asked for things that I wouldn't want to stock."
The Da Vinci Code? "I do stock it because I thought I'm not going to be so snobby as to not stock The Da Vinci Code. A customer came in in our second week and said, 'Have you got The Da Vinci Code?' and I said, 'Yes I have.' He said, 'I'm shocked. I was just testing you, and I'm shocked.'"
Full G2 special report: books.guardian.co.uk