Name & Job Title: Marta Starosta, Festival & Online Manager/Bookseller
Bookshop Name: The Gutter Bookshop
Tell us about your bookshop.
Each of the Gutter Bookshops is an oasis of calm, a treasure trove with hidden gems where all your bookish dreams can come true. We’ll be turning 12 this year as a company (started by Bob Johnston back in the heart of the 2009 recession) and we used those years to carefully curate our stock, to have the shelves filled with fascinating titles to delight our customers and to really have something for everybody.
We do have big personalities as well, but surely you know that already.
What makes this bookshop special?
We make it special – the staff. Each of us brings something unique to the table, starting from books we read and recommend (sometimes with intense urgency to our innocent customers), through the crafty skills we employ to make our windows stand out, to the honest interest in our customers’ lives – their reading ones and everything else that happens in-between.
What’s the atmosphere like in the shop?
We like to keep it casual and relaxed in both shops with gentle background music while we float around caressing books, whispering sweet nothings to them. Well, at least on a quiet, rainy day with no deliveries.
In festival season (remember them?) there is usually plenty of running around, teleporting boxes, sorting out signing areas for authors while quickly snacking on a ginger biscuit. We used to have book clubs in the shop in pre-pandemic times and customers would eavesdrop on bookish chats while browsing. All those good times will be back, don’t you worry!
Favourite memorable customer or author interactions?
So many … buy me a pint and I’ll tell you everything.
What are your customers enjoying at the moment?
Fantastic support for Irish writers this summer: Snowflake by Louise Nealon, The 32: An Anthology of Irish Working-Class Voices edited by Paul McVeigh and Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly have all been flying out of the shop.
What are you reading at the moment?
Just finished The Fell by Sarah Moss to be published in November later this year, fantastic lockdown book. Sarah always perfectly captures human nature in all its shades. Now I’m jumping straight into Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?
Why did you go into bookselling?
I’ve always loved books and could spend hours with and around them, you could say it was a natural progression to start getting paid for it, and I’ve never looked back.
What’s your favourite and least favourite element of bookselling?
Customers and customers! There is no better joy than finding the perfect book for someone, especially when they come back and tell you how much they enjoyed it. But for others no matter how hard we try the perfect union is impossible. Mind you, we do love a challenge.
I have a book in mind, but can’t remember the title. It has a blue cover, if that helps. What might it be?
Sure, but tell me, where did you see it – did we have it in the summer window last year in the left corner in our Dalkey shop? Or was it by the till in the autumn in our Cow’s Lane store? Is that the one your man was talking about the other day on that radio in the morning? Or the one that lady phoned in and complained about last month? If yes to all, it’s either I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice or Don’ts for Husbands from 1913.