New era dawns for award-winning Children’s Bookshop

      Babette Cole

      The Muswell Hill Children’s Bookshop, which has traded successfully for 40 years in the “vibrant, book-loving community” in North London, is seeking a new owner “to take it forward for the next generation”.

      The store – on a road that still boasts numerous independent outlets, including the Muswell Hill Bookshop (for adults) opposite – offers “exceptionally strong schools sales, a loyal and well-established customer base and potential for expansion”. It is being sold for family reasons.

      Opened by Helen and Michael Paiba in 1974, and taken over by Lesley and John Agnew in 1994, it is believed to be the longest-standing specialist children’s bookshop in the UK. Despite the growth of Amazon and ebooks, the award-winning Muswell Hill Children’s Bookshop has continued to flourish thanks to its strong links with schools and local residents, among whom it is a much-loved institution. It is immensely popular with authors, with big names making many a return visit, among them John Burningham, Helen Oxenbury, Liz Pichon, Shirley Hughes. Judith Kerr, Michael Morpurgo, Emma Chichester Clark (the last two are below, with Kate and Lesley Agnew)

      Michael Morpurgo, Emma Chichester Clark with Kate and Lesley Agnew)

      Michael Morpurgo, Emma Chichester Clark with Kate and Lesley Agnew)

      The current owners are keen to find the right buyer to build on the bookshop’s strengths – it was named Children’s Independent Bookseller of the Year Award at the British Book Awards in 2005, and has been shortlisted at each subsequent entry.

      Said Kate Agnew – top picture, with mother Lesley, at right, and Helen Paiba: “As a family, we’ve loved running the business for the last 20 years. It’s been a real privilege to do so, but now we’re looking to find a buyer who will take the Bookshop forward for its next 20 years.”

      Agnew worked in the Children’s Bookshop as a student with Helen Paiba and then as Assistant Manager from 1990-1991. She was Manager of Heffers Children’s Bookshop in Cambridge from 1991-1999, and came back to Muswell Hill part-time in 1999. She took over the full-time running of the business when her mother, Lesley, became terminally ill in 2010. She and John, her father, have been running it since then, with the support of a loyal and knowledgeable staff.

      The Bookshop’s financial year ends in May, so final accounts are a few weeks off, though school sales are definitive figures.

      For further information please contact Kate Agnew at the Children’s Bookshop (0208 444 5500).

      ONE other quick piece of Hot Gossip:

      The previous MD of Random house Children’s Books , Fiona Macmillan , has just started a new exciting job as publishing director for Centum Books . She is in Las Vegas at the moment at a Brand marketing Conference . Go Fi Go !

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