Crystal Palace bookshop is destination for lovers of fiction

PUBLISHED: 10:33 15 February 2013 | UPDATED: 10:33 15 February 2013

Bookseller Jonathan Main with customer Yvonne Singh

Bookseller Jonathan Main with customer Yvonne Singh


Brilliant detectives, boy wizards and star-crossed lovers can all be found inside the four walls of a Crystal Palace landmark.

Jonathan MainJonathan Main

Now in its 16th year, Bookseller Crow on The Hill is a member of a dying breed – the independent bookshop.

Based in Westow Street, owner Jonathan Main bought the store from the Wordsworth chain and immediately set about cramming the shelves with hand-selected fiction.

It is now what he describes as a “destination” for book-lovers who travel far and wide to experience the atmosphere and selection of books and graphic novels, which are often sourced locally.

He said: “We have a strong presence in the area because Crystal Palace is just like a little village and it really does have that atmosphere.

A collection of bestsellers on the shelves of Bookseller Crow on the HillA collection of bestsellers on the shelves of Bookseller Crow on the Hill

“The selection of books here is a bit more unusual than most stores because I’m quite choosy about the stuff I stock.

“It’s a destination for people and they go out of their way to come back.”

He has been running bookshops for around 25 years and met his wife, Justine Crow, through his work.

Her name lends itself to the store which has garnered a strong family atmosphere from a focus on stocking children’s literature and employing the eldest of their three children, 19-year-old Connie.

The children have grown up in and around the store, but Jonathan admits Connie and her sister, Willa, 15, and brother Fred, 13, are not all bookworms.

He said: “Pretty much all my children have grown up with the shop there and have run riot between the shelves at some point.

“I’m a big reader, but my kids aren’t so much. I don’t think growing up around books has put them off, but they’re definitely not bookworms.”

The migration to online retail, which has killed other stores, prompted Jonathan to give Bookseller Crow a web presence.

The store has a big following on social media sites such as Twitter and Jonathan regularly updates followers which he says adds to the family atmosphere he promotes.

“The shift to the web has been noticeable since we opened but we still sell the majority of our books in store.

“I’m big on Twitter and Facebook mainly because I enjoy it, but customers like knowing what’s going on and might pop in off the back of a tweet. It all adds to the family feel.”

Although technology is a strong point of the store, Jonathan draws the line at stocking e-readers – which he believes are destined for doom.

“I’m not interested in Kindles or anything like that, I can’t see them lasting. E-books will stay I think, but people will just read them on their iPads. Eventually, you will get a free downloadable version when you buy a book – much like they do with blu-rays and CDs now.”

The store has ridden the tough financial climate and remains in a strong position, despite having had “easier Januaries”.

Keeping local talent stocked keeps the store at the heart of the community and regular book club meetings are a chance for customers to socialise. The store also hosts regular author readings and signings, next welcoming Melissa Harrison author of Clay on February 20.

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