‘Kinsale is a welcoming town, and everyone is encouraging’

Simon Prim is owner of Simon Prim Book Shop, Main Street, Kinsale, Co Cork, which sells second-hand books.

‘Kinsale is a welcoming town, and everyone is encouraging’

Simon Prim is owner of Simon Prim Book Shop, Main Street, Kinsale, Co Cork, which sells second-hand books.

How long have you been open?

Over five and a half years. We opened in May 2014.

How did you get into the book business?

People often come into the shop and ask me if it was my dream to open a bookshop. I say, not really, I was just copying my dad [Alan Prim bookshop in Youghal, Co Cork]. In saying that, I love it. I knew I would enjoy it because I liked working with my dad, especially looking for books. I had a head start with my dad and he helped me with the stock when I opened. I feel I am still learning from him as well, serving a form of apprenticeship.

Why did you choose Kinsale?

I grew up in Youghal and lived in Cork for seven years, I went to college in UCC. I moved to Kinsale in January 2013 and I was working two jobs in the city and commuting — one in the Farmgate café and the other was in NASC, the immigrant support centre. I love Kinsale and I wanted to see if I could do something myself down here and I thought, ‘Why not try a bookshop?’. When I left the Farmgate, I started working down here in the Black Pig wine bar and I still do a few shifts there in the summer. I love working in restaurants as well — so I have a good balance now.

How is business?

I rely on about 75% tourist trade. I have a good few local customers who would come in every few weeks and purchase a good few books, and people come here from the city as well. We get a lot of people from Dublin who spend their summers down here in Kinsale who come in every year to buy books. I’m still building things up but it’s going alright. Every year I am getting busier, so I think the demand is increasing, for sure. I don’t really want to go online, because I don’t want to be checking my laptop all the time but I may have to do that eventually. As long as I can sustain it without having to do that, I am happy.

Tell us more about the shop.

It is quite a big space. I have a little coffee bar down the back where I serve takeaway coffees. I have a piano, a chessboard, a Scrabble board and some nice paintings. People like to wander around; I think they like the atmosphere.

Where do you source your books?

Generally, I buy from the public. I do get donations sometimes but it is almost better to buy them, because you know what you want, you give your price, otherwise you could be stuck with several boxes you don’t need that you are trying to shift. Often it’s people downsizing, or clearing out a library. I often go down and raid my dad’s bookshop as well.

Does he mind?

He does sometimes [laughs] but he is very good to me. He loves going around scouting for books, it is his favourite aspect of the job. He will often keep a few aside for me as well.

The sign describes your business as ‘bibliotherapy’?

People always comment on it. It was my dad’s idea. It’s a nice touch. There’s a peace inside a bookshop, people do come in to escape. There’s a playground down from the bookshop, and you often get parents who come in and just leave out a sigh. It’s a nice place to be and a nice place to work. I can even bring my dog to work, which is a bonus.

What is Kinsale like to do business in?

I fell in love with Kinsale when I moved down here. Everyone is so friendly. The day I was setting up, i was building shelves with a friend and three people who I barely knew came in and helped us for the day. It is a welcoming town, and everyone is positive and encouraging.

There are a few other bookshops, An Bookstór and the Kinsale Bookshop, and everyone is friendly with each other, we send people to each other’s shops. Up to a couple of years ago, there was a fourth bookshop, The Time Traveller was here for a while. Then you have Poet’s Corner just two doors down from me, which is a book exchange and café. It’s weird that it ended up like a miniature Hay-on-Wye but it’s great. You often hear people going past, going, ‘What, another bookshop?’

Which books or authors would you recommend?

My favourite book I read in the last year was Any Human Heart by William Boyd, it was fantastic. At the moment, I’m reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Everyone who recommended it said they had broken down several times reading it but I haven’t yet. There’s about 100 pages left and I’m waiting for this big emotional ending. I also love all of Donal Ryan’s books, they are dark, funny and sad but beautiful.

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