Tell us the story of your shop
My mum had moved to Salen on the Isle of Mull from Glasgow after my dad died when I was a teenager. I qualified as a teacher and always wanted to go home to Mull. The only job available at that time was as a part time itinerant teacher travelling round the Island from school to school. My longest trip was to Iona and my smallest school only three pupils.
To supplement income my wife, Rosie, and I decided to open a tourist shop in the Summer months. This was called ‘Tackle and Sports’. It stocked all sorts of summer stuff for tourists from fishing tackle to beach games. Another shop became available and as Rosie and I both had completely different ideas on stock we decided to run a shop each. My brother and his wife suggested books which was a great idea. A few years later a larger shop came up for sale and I purchased this to give us the Tackle and Books we see today.
Where do you fit in?
Tackle and Books has me hidden in the office most of the time. Jean is our longest serving member of staff at over 30 years. Then we are really lucky to have Barbara and Sue throughout the year. Next there is Flora, our weekender and Laura who, at the moment, is trapping butterflies in Ecuador.
What makes your bookshop stand out from others?
At Tackle and Books we are novel in a few ways. Books is books but Tackle covers every thing we can think of. The shop does business services, stationery, gifts, computer goods, fishing tackle, artists materials and so on. This gives us a really unusual and memorable name.
The shop has retained all the original fittings from the old chemist shop in the town. These include a magnificent display and drawer cabinet and a
wonderful curved glass, oak counter. A real treasure of the shop is our outlook. Tackle and Books looks straight over Tobermory Bay. These waters are full of wildlife. Where else in the world can you watch otters, seals, dolphins, porpoises, eagles and even killer whales from your shop windows?
Finally it’s our situation. We are right in the heart of colourful Tobermory, which makes Tackle and Books one of the most photographed shops in Scotland. So much so that we put ‘Tobermory’ above our shop so everyone who sees the famous photograph of our town knows exactly which town it is.
Do you have a local author who visits the shop? Which author event has drawn the biggest / most
I would hesitate to pick an author out as many have come to visit and the shop walls are covered in messages of good will. We have had loads of wonderful signings. If I must I’ll mention two. Alexander “Sandy” McCall Smith spends many hours in Tobermory and always pops in to visit. He’s a wonderful man who will put aside any amount of time to chat with the customers. They love him. Then there’s the amazing children’s illustrator and author Benedict Blathwayt who lived on Mull for many years and returns to the Island a number of times every summer. Nothing is to much trouble for Ben.
Who wanders in through your door most often? / Which customer has taken you by surprise?
That’s a fun question. Four years ago a beautiful Children’s book called the Tobermory Cat, about a local cat called Tobermory, was written by the lovely Scottish children’s author Debi Gliori. There was great excitement in the shop on the day of arrival of the title. We unpacked the first box of books and put it on the floor. In front of all the customers Tobermory the cat wandered into the shop climbed into that very first box and fell asleep. If I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t have believed it!
What’s the most ridiculous request you’ve ever had?
This is only really funny to locals but we’ve been asked more than once how far is the walk to Staffa (an island off Mull’s west coast). With this question you are also faced with the dilemma of how to answer without embarrassing the customer.
Where did your love of the printed word begin?
Tintin by Herge. I loved Tintin books as a boy. They were the most exciting and funny stories. So many times I would laugh myself to sleep. Georges Remi gave a great gift to the world.
Which book has influenced you most / which poem talks to your soul?
What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack. That book was amazing for business and life. I love Kubla Khan. It tells you of unknown places. I’m a great science fiction and fantasy fan. That’s the joy of reading. It’s a minds journey.
What are you reading now and why?
I apologise by answering with a book I’m really looking forward to reading soon. We’re organising the first Tobermory book festival, West Over Sea, for the last weekend in October. I’m amazed by the wonderful authors that have agreed to come. One of the events is a book launch for Mull & Iona: A Historical Guide, the first ever full length guide to the historical sites of Mull by David Caldwell. Everybody is really excited about this read.
If not this, then what?
Gosh what job can be better than Christmas every day!