Sam Hankin launched his bookselling career in 2005 when he took his outsize library, which was crowding him at home, and opened Wellington Square Bookshop in an 800-square-foot space in the town center of Eagleview in Exton, Pennsylvania. The rare, collectible, and used bookstore did so well that Hankin soon ran out of room there, too. On August 1, the bookshop moved two doors down to a 3,700-square-foot storefront, where sales have doubled monthly and the space is nearly filled to capacity again.
Although the original Wellington Square Bookshop was a small store, it made hundreds of international sales online. "Some of the books we sold went for $20,000 or more, including a first edition of Ulysses by James Joyce," Hankin said. "We continued to sell out of the shop for three years until we completely filled it and made it impossible for anyone to maneuver between the stacks. It was then that I decided to make the move to a larger space."
The bookshop also broadened its range. "In the past I dealt with rare, used, and collectible books," Hankin explained. "Given today's economic conditions, the socio-economic demographics of our community, the more mainstream we have become. We now include new books, retail products, a cafe, and an outdoor area with umbrellas, tables, and eventually concrete chess tables as well. We have a rare book room, which is soundproof and contains the more valuable books. We also specialize in British signed first editions, American first editions, and an extensive library of Limited Edition club books."
Hankin's family is the developer of Eagleview, and he and his brothers built the brick building that houses the store. "It looks and feels like an old British railway station," he said. "It's surrounded by a 'green' with an esplanade, a gazebo, and a fish pond as well as ornamental gardens and groves." The facade has architecturally designed patterns woven throughout, and the interior is divided into separate galleries for rare, new arrivals, children's, and used books. "It all feels like a cross between a bookshop, a library, an antique store, a bazaar, and a fairyland."
In addition to offering an inventory of some 20,000 titles, the store is "an emporium of sorts" and is packed with "book paraphernalia, and ephemera, as well as other exotic and unusual retail items," Hankin said. "Rocks and minerals, Indian and Asian parti-colored and festive cushions, ottomans, and tables. We also have music boxes, skeletons ... We carry Arabic compasses pointing the way to Quibla. The odd wallaby. We also carry expensive and inexpensive candles." Other offerings include, but are not limited to, children's toys, puzzles, card games, paper dolls, clocks, diaries, chocolates, and coffee.
Customer response to the Wellington Square Bookshop expansion has been "excellent," said Hankin. "Our clientele has expanded each month. We host numerous book clubs. We have weekly children's reading hours, and we have an open microphone night, at which time students and adults can read their own material, or that of others. We also have local author signings, and are expecting to have more prominent authors schedule events in the near future."
Also in the near future, said Hankin, are a few more changes and expansions. "We intend to expand our retail collection with more exotic and eclectic items," he said. "We have been working with local artists to obtain paintings and other artwork on consignment, and in that we have already basically filled the expanded space, our visionary plans include warehouse space where excess inventory will be housed." --Karen Schechner