Located within the Royal Arcade for the past 15 years or so, and round the corner on London Street for the decade prior, Norwich's original Waterstone's bookshop closed its doors to the public for the final time on October 8th, 2011.
I admit to a bias straight off: I was one of the lucky fifteen members of staff to be employed there when the store finally closed, and had been for five and a half years. I'm well aware of the effects Waterstone's as a chain has had on the independent bookshop trade over the years, so bemoaning the shift in buying patterns away from brick and mortar stores towards the big bad Internet wouldn't sit quite comfortably with me - and, in the end, isn't quite what did us in, anyway. Instead, I'm going to simply say that, over the years, the store has employed a truly remarkable variety of bookselling talent: the city has benefited from some truly formidable expertise. Furthermore, it felt like a 'proper' bookshop. It was not a coffee shop. We tried our hardest to avoid badgering and pestering you into buying 'impulse' purchases or 'related' product, even when official protocol insisted. Despite the occasional inevitable gripes, those of us who worked at the Royal Arcade did love it: at least a few of our customers loved it, too.
So, apologies if the next few entries to Eastscapes reek of sentimentality or naval gazing: I DID warn you to expect bias, after all.
Oh, and the reason we closed? Waterstone's allowed Jamie's Italian - yes, the Italian restaurant chain of celeb-chef Jamie Oliver, whose books we have sold by the crate-load each Yuletide - to buy out our lease. If there's one thing Norwich doesn't seem to lack , it's restaurants: if there's another, it's empty city centre stores. So closing down a bookshop, of all things, to sell yet more inauthentic, overpriced food..?
Did I mention I was biased..?