City’s popular independent bookstore celebrates its fifth birthday

Manager Rory Hill celebrates the fifth anniversary of the Book Hive in London Street. Picture: DENIS

Manager Rory Hill celebrates the fifth anniversary of the Book Hive in London Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2014

There was an economic recession and book chain Borders was creeping towards collapse, and so Henry Layte knew he was taking a big risk when he opened The Book Hive five years ago.

But he was certain he could create a special destination at the quirky premises he had secured in Norwich's London Street and half a decade later it has thrived to become one of the city's cherished independent retailers.

When Mr Layte opened the store in 2009, he hoped to make it a place to celebrate the beauty of books.

He said: 'I wanted to make a book shop that was a place where you just wanted to be because there were so many beautiful books. They are things that should not be treated like commercial units on the internet, they are things that people love to pick up and feel and treasure.'

Mr Layte said his staff's passion for books had been a big factor in its success, as well its loyal customers.

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The store regularly holds books launches and readings as well as other events and has become an integral part of the literary life of England's first UNESCO City of Literature.

Chris Gribble, chief executive of the Writers' Centre Norwich, said: 'It's a fantastic addition to the city.

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'The Book Hive is not just a book shop. It's at the centre of city life and is a hub where they hold events, connect people, and they bring people in from outside the city.'

When he first opened The Book Hive, Mr Layte did not anticipate that he would end up moving into publishing too, first with the Galley Beggar Press which published Eimear McBride's hugely-acclaimed novel A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing.

While Mr Layte has since left Galley Beggar, The Book Hive now has its own in-house publishing arm called Propolis, for which the first title is 'Ariadne's Thread: In Memory of W G Sebald'.

The shop also recently hosted its first retirement party, which Mr Layte says could herald a new chapter for the shop as it looks to the future.

He said: 'Someone likes The Book Hive so much that when they retired from being a doctor at the hospital their colleages hired the shop out to have their retirement party in the shop.'

He added: 'It's tough for any small business but I think we are on steady enough ground now we are probably going to be here for some time yet.'

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