It is a cliché, but we don’t realise what we value until its gone. This is true of our store, Chapters in Parnell Street. The outpouring of grief and the stories that were shared, reminded us all that a bookshop holds an unusual position in people’s lives, books are part of how we see ourselves and express ourselves, they are also how we understand others – we have an emotional response when we see someone reading a book that we love
Hearing these stories, made us realise that there are many distinct aspects of Chapters that are meaningful for our customers and that even if what we do can be done by others, the how and why of Chapters is unique. We hold books in stock longer, the focus isn’t about the day one response; our books have a chance to breathe, to work their charm and they have space to do that, sitting alongside their siblings that have arrived in ‘bargain’ and THIS is part of what makes Chapters so exceptional and close to people’s hearts.
Sustainability, the environment and social responsibility are the core tenants of our business. They weren’t called that forty years ago when Willie Kinsella opened the original Chapters, he just knew that it was the right thing to do. When Mick Finucane and Kevin Neary reopened, staying true to the values of Willie and Ger, their customers and staff was inherent in the “why should Chapters be saved?”
Books don’t wear out, they aren’t disposable, fast-moving consumer goods, no matter how we treat them. They are for life and at Chapters we respect that lifespan, from glossy front of shop beautifully designed covers on full display, to tables of bargain books that have been around longer and back to Secondhand, where we endeavour to prolong the life of every book possible, saving it from landfill or an incinerator.
As books move through the shop, they become more accessible pricewise; new releases come with an incentive to encourage trade in, which makes a new release more affordable to the next reader and allows people to ‘try out’ different authors, without making too great an investment; keeping books in the hands of people, rather than sitting on shelves and recognising that books always have value. It is a circular economy that generates little waste, producing less than a fifth of the carbon emissions of new books and as our Secondhand books are delivered by the community, it negates the need for constant deliveries of big trucks with plastic wrapped cartons.
This emphasis on sustainability has always meant that as a business although we have all the ‘big hits’ that are the backbone of other, we don’t focus on following trends, but in being part of a community with our customers, finding out what they are looking for and interested in and working with them to find it. The store is a hub, regulars doing their weekly trade and picking up their next read, students at the beginning and end of their cycle buying and then selling their course books, customers who have spent years buying from us are now downsizing and bringing it all back; book clubs, events and writing groups are held here, daily visitors come in for a chat.
The owners may have changed, but the ethos and heart of the store remains the same.
Books are cultural treasures; they remind us of who we are. We shouldn’t throw out treasure and at Chapters we don’t, it remains the place to come, to find what you didn’t know you were looking for.
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