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Book-mad couple end seven-year itch to open shop on Forres High Street

Publication: Forres Local

A new independent bookshop has opened on the High Street in Forres.

Under The Leaves bookstore, Forres
Under The Leaves bookstore, Forres

A local couple who met while studying English Literature have a started a new chapter in their lives by opening a bookshop on the high street.

John and Dörte McPhun, who have settled in Rafford, met while studying at Aberdeen University. After marrying and settling down, they decided it was time to realise their dream to open a bookshop in the town.

Under the Leaves is now open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm at 86 High Street.

Dörte said: “We’ve been thinking about it for about seven years, and always something we really wanted to do. The shop came up and it just felt right, and we thought if we don’t do it now, we never will.”

After securing the shop, the couple rapidly set about decorating and building the bookshelves, and opened on 2 January.

New year, new start

John said: “We wanted to open before Christmas, that was the goal, and it just wasn’t feasible. There’s so much more to setting up a shop than we realised.

“Although running a bookshop is new to us, Dörte worked in a bookshop in Germany, and I’ve worked in various retail outlets, but most importantly, we both love books!”

They said they are choosing stock they think will appeal to a broad range of interests, but they’ll also be driven by customers requests. They have started with a wall-to-wall selection of new and used books and can order anything in if needed.

John added: “We’re not specialising because we don’t have the space, and we also have the capacity to order books for people, so if we don’t have what people want, we can get it for them.”

Asked if any one book or topic has been popular in their first few days, they revealed that there had been a particular interest in Celtic Weird: Tales of Wicked Folklore and Dark Mythology, a very nice hardback with gold print.

Bookshop revival

And it seems that small independent bookshops are seeing something of a revival. According to a report “the number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland climbed to a 10-year high in 2022, as the book trade defied the odds in an otherwise brutal year for high street retailers.”

They also plan to have authors in for book signings and readings.

“We’ve already been contacted by a few local writers,” added John, and in turn they have contacted some themselves. “It’s early days, but we’ve had interest from a local author who wants to do a book launch.”

Forres had a bookshop in the nineties, which was run by Sarah Coulson and her mother. They closed for personal reasons, and Sarah now works with schools and charities as an independent distributor for Usborne Books, and said: “It’s wonderful that we’ve got a lovely new bookshop.”