Back in 1995, 165 Mortimer Street opened for business selling bric-a-brac to raise funds for the planned children’s hospice in Sittingbourne. Jenny Manners was an early customer, and would regularly pop in for a browse.
“One day I happened to say to the person running it that I had always wanted to work in a shop, and they said, ‘Can you start on Thursday?’” recalled Jenny. That was 20 years ago and Jenny has been volunteering there every Thursday since.
“It’s nice meeting people, and as we have lots of regulars you get to know them well,” she said, explaining why she still enjoys her weekly shift. “It gets me out of the house doing something interesting, and it’s a good charity of course, so it all comes together.”
The shop became dedicated to book sales around 10 years ago. Demelza has a second shop selling a wide range of pre-loved items in nearby William Street.
Manager Nick Rogers said: “We’re the only book shop in Herne Bay and, since many charity shops have decided not to take donations of books because they don’t have the space, we’ve become well-known in quite a wide area.
“We have customers who come in every day – we’ve become part of their daily routine.”
Nick estimates book donations run into the thousands every week. Smart pricing - £1.10 for paperbacks, children’s books for 40p-60p – means customers often leave weighed down with bulging bags, while youngsters can get a real treasure for their pocket money.
These two categories are the bestsellers, with history, transport, cookery and gardening also popular. Titles that definitely don’t fly off the shelves are TV show tie-ins from Christmases past: many still pristine and clearly unread gifts!
To make sure there’s plenty of fresh stock for their loyal regulars to look over, Nick and his team of 25 volunteers operate a clever colour coding system so books only spend five weeks on the shelves.
“If they haven’t gone by then we know they won’t sell here,” said Nick. Trays of unsold paperbacks go back to Demelza’s distribution warehouse destined for our other shops. Titles the team know won’t find a buyer or are in unsaleable condition are collected weekly by book recycling company Choice, which pays £1.25 per sack.
While the shop is yet to hit the jackpot with a Harry Potter first edition – “I think people are too clued up about these things now,” said Nick – they do receive collectable tomes which can fetch up to £50. Perhaps their most valuable find – in emotional worth rather than financial – was an 19th century family bible. Names inscribed in it led one of the volunteer team to track down the family’s descendants in Australia, and get the bible returned to them.
As well as books, we are always grateful to receive your donations of clothing and homeware for our shops in Kent, South East London and East Sussex. Find your nearest shop here – and don’t miss the opportunity to look for a bargain!