Golden Hare Books

WHAT WE LOVE: A design-led, minimalist bookshop which takes its cues from design museums. Golden Hare Books boasts a wall of beautifully displayed and merchandised face-out books, an inviting woodburning stove and one of the prettiest shopfronts ever.

WHERE: On St Stephen Street in Edinburgh’s elegant Stockbridge neighborhood.

WHO: Founded in 2012 by Mark Jones, a former director of the National Museums of Scotland and London’s V and A museum.

golden hare books shop interior

THE SHOP

In conversation with Ellen Wilson, general manager & shopkeeper at Golden Hare Books

When was Golden Hare Books established? Award winning independent bookshop Golden Hare Books opened its doors as a partly second hand bookshop in 2012, originally taking up residence in Edinburgh’s historic Grassmarket before moving across the city to our current location in upmarket Stockbridge a few years later.

How has Golden Hare Books evolved? For those of you not from Edinburgh: the Grassmarket is famously home to a quirky, dusty collection of second-hand/antique bookshops. You know Diagon Alley in Harry Potter? Well rumour has it that JK Rowling was directly inspired when creating the famous shopping location by several of the bookshops found here. You could walk through the door of any of those old, fascinating stores, our one-time neighbours, and feel you’d stepped back in time or into some other world. You could find books on ANYTHING. It was chaos, alphabeticalised. You could spend hours there, just browsing and reading snippets of text. Breathing in that sweet smell that books have – sort of like chocolate? At Golden Hare, we’ve never forgotten that feeling. Despite the business’ rebrand and move away from the second-hand book community (we now stock exclusively new books), we’ve always aimed to bring that unique quality, magic and experience of ‘The Bookshop’ with us.

golden hare books edinburgh children's section
golden hare books children's section

Who are Golden Hare Book’s customers? Our shelves hold the newest titles in fiction and non-fiction, and we cater for readers of all ages and abilities. The pride and joy of the shop’s fiction room is the paperback fiction table – we stack it with an ever-changing display of our favourite new releases, classics, Scottish fiction and bookseller favourites. There’s always something for any reader on that table!

What makes Golden Hare Books such a unique bookshop? We have a full wall of the shop where the books are displayed with their covers facing outwards. The idea for this came from the owner of the shop, Mark Jones, who founded Golden Hare as a retirement project after directing the V and A museum in London for many years. The V and A museum famously celebrates excellence in design, so Mark imagined Golden Hare as a bookshop which, like the museum, is totally design led: both functional and beautiful, where books are showcased as individual pieces of art/design in their own right. We rotate the display on this wall every week, keeping it fresh and alive with whatever the hot topics are in the book world, or whatever books we think are prettiest or most interesting. We have fun with the visual merchandising on this wall:  at Halloween we put only black books on the wall, at Christmas we kept it red. gold and green. I like to think of it as a mini art gallery that we curate with our most beautiful stock.

golden hare books edinburgh

Also unique, is our Golden Hare reading subscription service, called PostBooks: each month our booksellers carefully select, wrap and post subscribers new books. There’s a choice of subscription types (fiction, nonfiction or a mix of both) and depending on how quick you read, we can send you 1 book per month, or 2. PostBooks grew hugely in 2020, with Covid meaning readers were having to find other ways to shop for books when we were closed. We’ve got big plans to develop PostBooks this year – Edinburgh writer Kirsty Logan will be guest editing our selections in the spring, amongst other exciting collaborations coming up in summer and autumn. At the moment PostBooks is only suitable to subscribers aged 16+, but we’ll be launching a children’s version soon too – sign up to our mailing list via our website if you’d like to receive updates.

How has the internet and the pandemic affected your business? We launched our new online shop in Autumn 2020 and we now have over 2000 books available to order for local pick up, nationwide postage or international delivery at goldenharebooks. You can also purchase our Golden Hare merchandise, memberships, PostBooks subscriptions and 2021 events programme tickets on the website. We needed to do something to protect ourselves against another Covid lockdown – and decided this meant vastly improving our online presence and making our online shopping experience match up as best we could the joy of visiting Golden Hare in person. 

golden hare books events schedule

In pre-Covid times Golden Hare had a calendar full of literary events including our own bookgroup, spoken word night, bookbinding courses – as well as book launches and author signings. Obviously when Covid came crashing in with social distancing and restrictions on how many people we could have in the shop – we had to find a way to adapt. So we’ve gone online, with a virtual events programme kicking off this spring. Our first event is an online literary walking tour of Amsterdam from author Kate Mosse.  After that we’ve got lots of our favourite Scottish and international writers on board for a variety of events in 2021 – see our website for tickets and more info.

ellen wilson shopkeepers at golden hare books

THE SHOPKEEPER

Ellen Wilson, shopkeeper at Golden Hare Books

What did you do before becoming the general manager at Golden Hare Books? I took over as manager at Golden Hare after having worked as a florist for many years. You’d be surprised how much crossover there is between retail floristry and bookselling in an independent bookshop, namely the way the stock changes on an almost daily basis and how important making things look lovely is. I read a study a while ago which said that booksellers and florists have some of the highest levels of happiness at work and job satisfaction. Having done both these jobs, I can tell you its true.

What inspires you? I would say that my greatest inspirations in life are flowers and books – and my cheeky little whippet Sunday who comes to work at Golden Hare with me most days. I would recommend a shop pet to any shopkeeper – they always cheer you up if you have a difficult day and can win over even the most difficult of customers on your behalf.

golden hare books edinburgh

The inspiring thing about working in bookselling is the amount of personality you can put into this job. While Golden Hare is definitely known for being a luxury bookshop and while we do specialise in finding the most beautiful and rare hardback coffee table books, we also sell a lot of philosophy, science and tech, LGBTQ and environmental writing. We are big champions of BAME writers and endeavour to have as many books by women on our shelves as we do titles by men. We work closely with independent presses too: at Golden Hare its not unusual to find the country’s best-selling books on display beside something you’ve never heard of from a tiny foreign language publisher. That’s what inspires me about running Golden Hare – the opportunity to educate and support our customers, but always in beautiful, thoughtful style. 

golden hare books sign

What are your favorite Instagram accounts? emmatudorbloch: local illustrator who helped to paint a beautiful mural in our kid’s reading room and sells her screen-printed greeting cards exclusively at Golden Hare. flyingeyebooks: my favourite kids publisher, I adore their book design and writing sorellfurniture: amazing carpenter who completed the shop fit at Golden Hare, his finishing is exquisite and his designs are so inventive agnesjones: Glasgow based blacksmith who created our much-admired Golden Hare sign. independentthinkingpodcast: great place to learn about some of Edinburgh’s best indie shops. They have a special feature on the shops in St Stephen Street (where we’re based) including some of our other favourites shoptreen and minilovecrumbs

What are your five favorite shops? The Pastry Section – to die for cakes, based just down the road from us in Stockbridge; Rose and Ammi – my favourite flower shop in Edinburgh; Armstrong and Sons – vintage clothing emporium in Edinburgh, full of hidden gems; Hill Lord & Co. – Sunday’s favourite pet shop in town. It’s been a pet shop in the same family for over 100 years now! Mary’s Milk Bar – ice cream shop in Edinburgh that also does the most amazing hot chocolate.

golden hare books recommends
golden hare books edinburgh

ON THE FUTURE OF RETAIL

“Bookshops are classed as essential businesses in Scotland, so we have been fortunate in that we have been allowed to continue trading in some way, even in in the deepest parts of lockdown. Plus the demand for books in the UK is higher than ever now, between home schooling and people having extra time on their hands. It’s been tough, scary and exhausting but I try to think of all the positives that have come out of Covid for Golden Hare Books. We have a stronger online presence now, which has meant our customer base has grown to include the whole of the UK and further afield too. In short, Covid has forced us to modernise and its only been a good thing for us.”

GOLDEN HARE BOOKS

68 St Stephen Street, Edinburgh, Scotland

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