It All Started with Goosebumps

Featured Image Credit: Book Nook Stirling, Twitter

Imagine a room, covered in green book shelves that are filled to the brim with titles ranging from Frankenstein to Bosh’s Healthy Vegan Cookbook. The scent of ground coffee beans lingering in the air, the gentle buzz from conversations bouncing off the walls. 

A place where everyone is welcome – a real-life Central Perk café. Where the elderly come to socialize and where students anchor down for the day, highlighters and post-it notes sprawled across their tables.

A big, comfy sofa, a few tables and many, many books. Large, frameless windows facing the high-street, creating the perfect people-watching spot. A dog-friendly; child-friendly; all-round friendly zone.

That is what English graduates Leanne Brown and Jasmine Stenhouse did two years ago. They imagined this space. Dreamed about this place. Joked about opening a bookstore/café that would become their workplace. Then they adopted Nikes’ slogan and just did it.

The concept is simple: There’s books, bagels, baked goods and beverages. A few literature-related bits and bobs to browse through around the till, whilst waiting for your hot-drink-of-choice to be served. Enough seats for the small staff to manage. And so far, this concept is proving a success.

Since The Book Nook first opened its doors on 24 Upper Craigs in Stirling back in September this year, Leanne and Jasmine has hardly had a moment of rest. 

Today is no different, so both of them breathe a sigh of relief as we sit down for a chat in their busy venue – it’s the first time since breakfast that they’ve taken a break.

“The one thing I would say to someone who’s thinking of starting their own business, is: Be prepared for it to take over your whole life,” says Jasmine. She is currently never off the clock, with the store and a ten-month-old baby waiting for her at home. 

“But I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says, “the response we’ve gotten from people has been incredible!” Then she excuses herself to run over and help diffuse the queue of thirsty customers lining up by the till. 

Left at the table is Leanne: A bubbly, positive and accommodating book-lover. After making sure Jasmine’s got everything covered, she proceeds to retell the Cinderella story of how this place came to be.

Born from a drunken chat over lunch at City Walls, The Book Nook is the labour of love, intense research and scrupulous planning. Neither of the girls come from families with a  background in business: They had to learn from scratch. 

“After our boozy lunch we stumbled into Waterstones and found ‘How to start a business for dummies.’ That’s where it all began, recalls Leanne, with a laugh. 

Soon after, she managed to get Jasmine a job at her office. With the synced schedules, they would head home together after work to spend hours on Pinterest, finding inspiration and ideas for their future business. 

A two-year-long process was then set in motion. Building a business-plan; securing loans; finding a suitable venue. Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork. But the girls enjoyed this part too, as it taught them the value of patience and perseverance.  

“This venue was actually our third choice, but now we’re so happy that we went with it. It’s absolutely perfect and with so much space it has been easy to adjust in regard to social distancing,” says Leanne. 

When asked about what it’s been like opening in the midst of a pandemic, Leanne shrugs and points out that they don’t have much to compare it to.

“To be honest, I feel like it might actually have helped us – especially in terms of students. With the lockdown and all teaching being online, they’re probably spending way more time in cafés than they would’ve normally.”

And that home-away-from-home feeling which customers keep complimenting the staff on, is what both Jasmine and Leanne was aiming for when setting up their shop. 

“We’ve always imagined it from a customer’s perspective. A place where people can come in, sit for the whole day, read a book, have some tea and just relax,” explains Leanne.

This laid-back approach has however also received a few bad responses from customers, disappointed over not getting a table quick enough. But, as Leanne points out: “being too popular is quite a good problem to have in the times we’re living through.” 

And their success is not bound by borders. Last month, a meme titled ‘How it started & how it’s going’ on The Book Nook’s Twitter-page went viral. Today it sits on more than 600,000 likes from people across the globe – many of whom have contacted the girls asking how to support the business from respective countries.

Leanne couldn’t believe her eyes, waking up in the morning and seeing the massive response to her tweet: “It was insane! And people are so lovely, telling us they’ll come visit when they travel to Scotland…Can’t believe we went viral!”

The meme shows a four-year-old tweet by Leanne, stating that she’d just spent 3 hours imagining owning a bookshop that also sold baked goodies. The thread then shows Jasmine commenting on the brilliance of this business idea, suggesting that they’d join forces.

Today, the girl’s forces have more than joined – they have fully intertwined. Having met at uni, Jasmine and Leanne first bonded over their mutual love of a series of horror books:

“It all started with goosebumps,” says Jasmine with a big smile, returning to the table having dealt with the cohort at the counter. “And now we work together, alongside my partner and her brother, running our dream-shop – pretty crazy when you think about it.”

The two friends agree that none of this would’ve been possible without one another. And that their mutual passion for books are what keeps them going in the busiest of times. 

“Every time we get a new delivery of books, we’re like children on Christmas, ripping up the boxes with huge smiles on our faces,” says Leanne. 

Books have been a constant in both of their lives, no matter what else has been going on, they’ve been there and available to dive into at all times. That’s the type of space they now want to provide to Stirling residents. And in my opinion, they’re pretty much nailing it. 

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