For Irish Book Week John Breen from Waterstones Cork tells us about the bookshop at the centre of the city’s community
“Some of our customers who came here as children are now bringing their children in—we would love to be here when their grandchildren start reading.”
How it started
Waterstones Cork opened in 1988—the second shop opened by the company in the Republic—under the guidance of Bert Wright, who will be familiar to many in the Irish book trade. We have remained a prominent feature of Cork city centre for 35yrs—there have been some minor changes to the layout in that time but nothing major other than a refit in the early 2000s
How it’s going
Ours is quite a large shop and that allows us to stock an extensive range of titles which has served us well in building a loyal customer base over thirty-five years.
We love recommending books and believe that readers should find not just the new bestsellers but also the gem they didn’t know they wanted, and that they should be free to enjoy browsing. Our customers trust our recommendations and we’re very proud of that. Like most bookshops we have had to adapt to a changing market over time so sections such as graphic novels and manga are now much larger than before and are thriving.
Though we are part of a large chain we see ourselves as very much a Cork shop
We have also diversified into selling a large range of high quality non-book and book-related products but this has not affected the atmosphere of the shop which remains that of a bookshop run by book lovers.
Though we are part of a large chain we see ourselves as very much a Cork shop. Cork has a rich literary tradition and a vibrant community of talented authors including poets, historians, children’s writers, authors of literary and popular fiction, crime fiction, comic books and sportswriters—so there is a lot of local talent for us to promote.
The common denominator is that we’re all enthusiastic book lovers but between us we cover a very broad spectrum of tastes and cultural influences
We do this not only by featuring them in the shop but also by maintaining a very busy and varied events programme and by partnering with organisations like Cork City Libraries and The Munster Literature Centre in the festivals and initiatives which they organise including Cork:One City, One Book, Cork World Book Festival, Cork International Short Story Festival and Spike Island Literary Festival. We like to think that we are an integral part of that community.
Of course none of this would be possible without our wonderful staff. We’re an eclectic lot here in Waterstones Cork ranging from 30 years experience through to fresh faced new starters and covering all points in between. The common denominator is that we’re all enthusiastic book lovers but between us we cover a very broad spectrum of tastes and cultural influences which is a big help when dealing with such a wide range of titles and customer tastes.
Where you’re headed
Being a bookseller means constantly striving to improve your shop and customer experience and we would like to think that we will still be here in another thirty five years doing what we do now but doing it better.
Our customers trust our recommendations and we’re very proud of that
Some of our customers who came here as children are now bringing their children in and we would love to be here when their grandchildren start reading. We want to continue passing on our love of books to the readers of Cork, promoting local authors and titles, hosting events and being a part of the great cultural community that this city fosters.
Our book recommendation at the moment has to be Penelope Unbound by Mary Morrissy published by Banshee Press. Described by John Banville as “a stylistic tour de force” and “a masterwork” the book imagines how Norah Barnacle’s life might have progressed had she not waited for James Joyce to return to the station that day in Trieste.
Cork based Mary Morrissy is one of our best novelists and a wonderful storyteller making this book a joy to read. Banshee Press is a small Cork based publisher rapidly gaining a reputation for publishing some of the best new writing and we really enjoy working with them.