In this month's SPOTLIGHT feature we talk to Caroline and Sue from White Rose Book Café
1. When did you start your business?
2. What led you to start a business/how did it all begin?
White Rose Book Café is an award winning family business. Sue Lake and her late father Steve Clements opened the shop in Thirsk in October 1995, to offer a modern, quality bookselling environment. Sue’s sister Caroline, assists in the running of the bookshop, along with 16 plus, other great members of staff.
3. What do you like about Thirsk?
Caroline - We love living and working in and near to Thirsk, there are so many friendly people, who appreciate the personal style of service that we offer at the Book Café. We like our little rural community, one of the benefits is that we all get to know each other, and look out for each other. Our team at the Book Café are like one big family, and we think that greatly helps everyone to be so passionate about our business and our town.
4. What is your most popular product/service?
Sue – Our signed copies of books are very popular, we stock a great and varied range of books, plus our overnight ordering service gives customers access to thousands of books. Our staff choices for book recommendations are always of great interest to customers wanting to read something new.
Caroline – in the Café our homemade cakes made in house by Karly are very popular, especially the Lemon Drizzle Cake, Chocolate Velvet Cake and Rocky Road. Also the homemade soup goes down well, and it is served all year round, the most popular being the Broccoli and Blue Cheese, or the tasty Mushroom soup, accompanied with a warmed Cheese Scone.
5. What other local business do you support?
Caroline - We use local suppliers, the milkman Steven Pearson, Thirsk Greengrocer, Arthur Haigh butcher, Johnsons Butcher, Rowleys Florist, Thirsk Market and a local accounts firm. We have outsourced venues for our author events and Bloomin’ Word Cabaret evenings at The Golden Fleece Hotel, Rural Arts, Thirsk British Legion Club, we had an event at St Mary’s Church Thirsk with Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and renowned author Joanna Trollope, and events at Thirsk Racecourse with Carol Drinkwater and Gervase Phinn.
We employ local gardeners to maintain our Tea Garden. Annually we give charitable donations to Thirsk Swim Team, Thirsk Rotary Club, and prizes to local schools.
We recently won The Flavours of Herriot Country, Tea Room of the Year Award 2019 and have also been shortlisted for Regional Finalist in Independent Bookshop of the Year 2019, for the 5th year running.
Of course all our staff are local and our maintenance staff too, ie plumber, electrician, joiner, builder and a handyman.
6. What is the best part of your job?
Sue - The best part of my job is seeing when the customer leaves our business with a smile on their face, and knowing that we have pleased someone makes it all worthwhile, especially when we get some positive feedback face to face. The best feedback is about how nice and helpful the staff have been, or how they have enjoyed our range of products, or that they had a lovely meal in the Café. We have created a great ambience in our bookshop and Café and customers can see some different products on sale, that they won’t see anywhere else.
7. What is the best piece of advice you would offer a new business in Thirsk?
Sue – Embrace the local community. Listen to and observe your customers. Work hard and keep innovating.
8. Fun/amazing fact about your business people might not know?
Sue – We have a unique outdoor space at the back of the shop, our tea garden, with large terrace, lawn and flower beds.
9. Favourite book/famous person that inspires you?
Caroline’s choice - Philippa Perry’s new book “The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did)”
Sue’s choice - "The Wood" by John Lewis-Stempel
10. What does the future look like for your business?
We will be working very hard to keep up with the ever changing face of the rural high street, and retail in the UK. We will be continuing to keep up our high standards, and keep winning those awards, whilst plugging away on marketing with Social Medial.
Sue says “In my view an urgent review is needed to level the playing field regarding online large retailers, and supermarkets versus small independent retailers, parking concesssions need to be looked at and a review of our outdated business rates system is required to retain a healthy high street. We will be watching, monitoring and learning about anything beneficial to our independent business”.
Thank you Sue and Caroline. If you would like to featured in May's SPOTLIGHT ON feature, please email email@example.com