A BOOK lover who decided to set up his own shop is celebrating its successful start.

Just before the first lockdown, Alex Call searched high and low for the perfect place to create a bricks and mortar branch of his website Bert's Books, but struggled to sort out the logistics and was about to give up hope.

As he began to consider packing it in and trying something else in the publishing industry, a former mobile repair shop on Godwin Court in Swindon suddenly became available.

The 35-year-old said: "The website was a placeholder while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, and it went well. I was on the brink of going 'Well, now I have to get a proper job' when I found this place.

"The website has a really good community attached to it which has spilled over into real life. People come to Swindon just to visit this shop. One lady from Qatar visiting family in London had a day trip here.

"The Old Town community has been great too. We have regulars who come in to browse the books, have a coffee and cake, or just pop their head in and say hi, it's nice."

Swindon Advertiser: Alex Call (AKA Bert) and Michael Ritchie at Bert's Books in Old Town.Alex Call (AKA Bert) and Michael Ritchie at Bert's Books in Old Town.

Since the shop opened three months ago, it has regularly met its target of selling an average 30 books a day (with coffee and online sales helping if the in-store book trade slows down a little), and welcomed an array of authors in to meet fans and sign copies.

In Independent Bookshops Week, the staff welcomed CL Taylor, Joanna Cannon, Sarah Winman, and radio DJ Sara Cox.

Alex added: "That week was brilliant, a lot of people found us through that, and it was quite surreal. I picked Sara up at the station and instead of listening to her on the radio she was sat next to me chatting, saying how lovely Swindon was.

"We didn't have any expectations at first and didn't know how much of an appetite there was for a bookshop - I felt like there was, but we did takeaway coffees to help pay the rent just in case.

"We're achieving what we need to, which is great after just three months because it's building entirely on word of mouth so hopefully that will keep going."

The shop has just done its first book club and is hosting a yoga session before the shop opens on Sunday morning.


How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie - this satire about family dysfunction is a current bestseller

Her Majesty's Royal Coven by Juno Dawson - supernatural fun following witches working in a secret government department

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara - Alex's favourite book, a powerful interpersonal epic

HeartStopper by Alice Oseman - the coming-of-age rom-com graphic novel phenomenon

Vine Street by Dominic Nolan - an immersive 1930s crime noir to get lost in

Swindon Advertiser: Several authors have already popped into Bert's BooksSeveral authors have already popped into Bert's Books

Swindon Advertiser: Bert's Books in Godwin CourtBert's Books in Godwin Court

Swindon Advertiser: Swindon illustrator Steve Anthony's chalk art on the Bert's Books blackboardSwindon illustrator Steve Anthony's chalk art on the Bert's Books blackboard