A retired IT worker from Kew achieved her lifelong dream when she opened her own bookshop in Ham last month.
Rachel Thomas, 61, first welcomed customers to Parade’s End Books on 2 December and says her store has been busy ever since.
Located on Ham Parade in the suburb between Kingston and Richmond, Thomas hopes that her bookshop will become a new community hub for the area and can’t wait to have events there.
Though the shop is now closed to in-person customers due to the new national coronavirus lockdown, it is still open for home deliveries and offers click and collect services on its website.
Thomas said: “I’m so happy, I’ve been dreaming about this for 40 years.
“I worked in a bookshop when I was in college and I loved it so much, but then practically it wasn’t the right thing.
“It’s hard work but you get up in the morning and you really want to come in.
“It’s not about making money really, it’s more about the love of it.”
Thomas explained that the key skills required to run a successful bookshop are passion, and loving books.
She added: “You really have to like books and being with people and making recommendations.
“It’s about the personal, it’s about forming relationships with the customers.
“I’ve hired three part-time staff and they all love books, they read a lot and they’re good with customers.”
Thomas started searching for a place to start her bookshop five years ago, when she retired from a 30-year career in IT.
She struggled to find the right location and several of the spaces she found fell through.
After looking in places further afield, she came across an empty spot where a betting shop used to be on popular shopping street Ham Parade.
Within a month, the bookshop of Thomas’s dreams was open.
The store has since received rave reviews from locals, with many sharing their thoughts on social networking site NextDoor.
One woman said: “Bought a book today with my granddaughter. She was so pleased.
“The young lady who served her was really friendly and interested in her choice of book. Will definitely buy again.”
Another commented: “The staff are really friendly and helpful and they have made the shop look beautiful and inviting.”
Parade’s End Books sells a wide variety of titles, but if Thomas had to choose a favourite it would be the magical realist novel The House of the Spirits by Chilean writer Isabelle Allende.
Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney visited the bookshop three days after it opened.
She said: “I’m a big supporter of our local bookshops and hope that local residents get as much pleasure from using them as I do.”
Thomas’s new venture comes after other south-west Londoners decided to follow their dream despite the pandemic.