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A spotlight on Foyles

By Grand Central 19 Nov 2015

Foyles #SpotlightOn

Jon Small - Deputy Manager



Why did you want to work in Grand Central?

It’s a destination place in Birmingham and a lovely piece of modern architecture, plus the fact it’s got Foyles in it, tying in a great trade with a perfect place to dine and shop. It was a no brainer for me.

How long have you worked for Foyles?

Since September this year but I have been in the book trade for the best part of 30 years.

What have you done before?

Years ago I worked for Dylans - who don’t exist anymore and became part of Waterstones - and in between times I worked for a couple of publishers.

What do you love about Birmingham?

Well I’ve been here since 1984, as I came up here to go to university. I was raised in Kent in the countryside so was always a bit ambivalent about cities. But if you’re going to live in a city, you’re hard pushed to find a better one than Birmingham. It’s got everything you want, it’s got access to everywhere, great communications and it’s a fun place to be with the sweetest people who are genuinely really friendly.

What makes Foyles stand out? Why do you enjoy working here?

It’s still an independent company and still controlled by the family that set it up in 1903. They allow us to bring our own expertise and passions into what we do. Their reputation is second to none being one of the oldest booksellers in the country. And they’re fun to work for, it’s a lovely environment, light and airy and it doesn’t have that oppressiveness that a lot of bookshops have. The idea here is to make it welcoming to everybody, from your massive life-long committed bibliophile through to the person who just buys a book once or twice a year, and they want to go to a place where people are friendly, easy to talk to and have some knowledge.

What must-reads would you recommend from Foyles?


But from the new titles that have come out this year - in my area of interest , Natural History - there is a very well known, respectable author called Richard Mabey who’s just brought out a book called ‘The Cabaret of Plants’, which is just wonderful. He is a brilliant writer, very erudite, but manages to be an everyman as you don’t have to be a wordy person to read his books. It’s also a fascinating subject matter and the book itself is just a beautiful object, incredibly well put together.

So someone who knows nothing about that topic can still just pick it up?

Absolutely, and they’ll not only learn a great deal of stuff.  He brings in a huge amount of knowledge about the natural world into his writing.

What attracted you to the book industry?

I did an English degree and when I graduated I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to teach which is what a lot of my contemporaries did. So I thought ,what can I do to earn a living that involves books? I worked for Dylans for a while then I became a publishing rep for about 25 years for a couple of publishers and now I’m back on the other side of the counter, hopefully being able to recommend books to people and help them find the books that they want.  

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