Advantages Friendly staff, huge array of books
Disadvantages Cannot order over the website
Ottakar’s - A bookworm's best friendBack in the heady days of 2000, I fell in love. What’s this got to do with a bookstore? Well, keep with me and I’ll explain. Back in 2000 I moved in with Mel, who had lived in Chelmsford all of her life. I’d been brought up in Welling, Kent, a small town on the border of Kent and London, a twenty minute drive from the newly opened Bluewater shopping complex, and about half an hour from the slightly older Lakeside complex. Although I’d grown up reading books, I had usually taken advantage of the local library, which Bexley council had spent a lot of money in funding. On the rare occasions that I wanted to buy a book, I generally headed to WHSmith, who seemed to keep most of the newer titles in stock. To be honest, I’d never paid any attention to a dedicated bookstore, let alone heard of most of them. One of those that I had never even heard of was Ottakar’s. To cut a long story short, Mel’s best friend, Karl, works in Ottakar’s in Chelmsford, and it has been the various trips into town, popping in to see Karl that my fondness of this store has grown.
* A Brief HistoryOttakar's began just sixteen years ago, in 1987, when its current Managing Director, James Heneage raised venture capital finance with Philip Dunne, Chairman, to open three branches in Brighton (now closed), Banbury and Salisbury, on the belief that there might be an opportunity to establish a chain of bookshops offering high levels of range and service across the market towns of England.
At the late end of the 80’s, the idea of a national chain of bookshops was a relatively new one. Although Waterstone's and Dillon’s were fairly big bookshops, they seemed to operate only within the major cities. This meant that, these chains apart, the book trade comprised of just a series of regional chains (such as Blackwell’s), W H Smith and a large number of independent booksellers which existed in every town, large or small.Acquiring a small chain of shops in the West Country in 1990, the company grew slowly, and it wasn't until 1992 that it had sufficient evidence of a successful formula to persuade a refinancing of the company from new backers, Foreign and Colonial Ventures, with a view to rapid expansion. This expansion not only encompassed different types and sizes of town but also brought Ottakar’s into Wales and Scotland.
The chain now has over ninety branches from Elgin to Truro and from Aberystwyth to the Isle of Wight, and floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1998.* Chelmsford
The sizes of shops differs greatly, and though some are small shops, serving a small community, there are more recent ones which are much larger and offer coffee shops, seating areas and space for events such as book-signings or children's activity sessions. The Chelmsford store is based over two floors, with a small Costa coffee bar upstairs which is an ideal retreat for a quick cuppa and a start to the reading of your newly purchased book. Although the store looks, from the outside, fairly small, it’s appearance is deceptive, with the store spreading back a fair way, and every conceivable space being piled top to bottom with books.
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