So, as many of you know, in 2014 my wife Julie and myself opened up two very different businesses at 73 Belmont Road in East Belfast. On the ground floor was 'Well Made'- a shop filled with some amazing nik-naks from vintage clothes to handmade arts and crafts lovingly made by local people. Upstairs was my office- the hub of The Book Well as we know it (or as I know it in case you haven't visited it yet.) At the time, they both worked. The bookshop was neat and tidy and had occasional visitors who ventured up the creaky Victorian staircase. And likewise, downstairs received lots of footfall with loads of people loving the treasure trove they had just walked into.
A year and a half later though, things began to change. As a family we gained a new person (who will definitely be a future member of the Ulster rugby team). In work, we had mixed fortunes. In 'Well Made' the footfall dropped, as did sales, but not the expenses. In 'The Book Well' the space that was there was quickly filled with mounting boxes of orders and donations of second hand books, and I was doing the job of 6 people. We realised we needed to do something drastic. We knew that the most important thing to us was our family- our two boys as well as each other. We realised too that maybe taking on two businesses, especially as we were starting a young family, was maybe not the best of ideas we've ever had. We realised that it was time to focus on one business.
In April we started to make plans to close Julie's vintage shop and to potentially replace it with the book shop. There were so many positives and negatives surrounding this big decision. There was the extreme sadness of closing a shop which was very close to Julie's heart, and was a big part of her identity. But there was also the excitement of joining up together to put our full concentration into the one business. It would mean I would gain bigger premises, more room for storage, a new staff member to ease the pressure of workload, and would have an actual Christian bookshop back on the high street! This final realisation frightened me the most because I had been there/done that/saw it fail at a time when book shops all over the UK were closing. However, I've always felt there was a need to set this business up in the first place. I've always felt too that God was calling me to do this. So if this is part of his plan, why should I fear?
In 2013 when we got the shop keys, we signed a 3 year contract. It expires next summer. My hope is that if this works, and that overheads won't increase too much, that we will sign a new deal. However things can obviously change so much in 12 months, but I don't want to think that far ahead at this stage. For the time being, we will have a closing down sale of 'Well Made' in May/June. We will close The Book Well over the July period to cover events and much needed holidays. And then we will begin the process of moving the upstairs downstairs in the hope of opening at the start of August.
I've always felt this was an exciting journey. It's a journey with so many twists and turns though. There is certainly never a dull moment. I write this with very mixed emotions, but with an ever growing feeling of hope that this will lead to a positive outcome. We regret nothing. We always said that if one, or even both businesses failed, that we would put our hands up and say that at least we gave it a go. There is no way we would not have done it, even if we knew that the outcome would be the same.
We will update you as much as we can over the coming months, but in the meantime we would ask you to please keep us in your prayers as we journey through this transition.