Down a small side street in Wood Green there lies a little green bookshop with a big heart. There’s something particularly special about independent bookshops – perhaps it’s that they deal with free ideas both literally and metaphorically, perhaps because that combination of place of learning and independent thought creates a frisson that your local veg sellers can’t quite reach… who knows?

However, while speaking to the co-owner Simon Key (right) it quickly becomes apparent that there really is something special about the Big Green Bookshop that goes beyond simply not being Waterstones, and that company is not entirely unconnected with the story.

So how did this place come into being four years ago?

Simon says it all started because “we were managers of the Waterstones in the Wood Green shopping center across the road” but despite it being one of their most profitable branches “they closed it.” So “we thought sod it – we’ll open our own bookshop!”

They started with a blog called Open a bookshop, what could possibly go wrong? that aimed to record the day by day process of how you, well, open a bookshop. Whether that’s the legal, and logistical problems that they had never had to deal with before or simply pinning down how to create a truly community bookshop – it was all  there.

And it worked.

From the very beginning they wanted as much involvement as possible from others. Even the name of the shop was the winning entry in a competition among local schools, which is both a curse (because some think they only sell environmental books) and a benefit (because it has won them so many fans in Wood Green and beyond).

As much as possible is decided by the customers and, as you can see from the chalk board (above), there is a real focus on making sure the space is used by putting on as many varied events as possible. From comedy nights, to children’s book readings, to the aspiring writers’ circles the Big Green Bookshop has the lot.

It’s not all been plain sailing though. “We had a wobble about this time last year. We were having trouble paying the bank loan back. It was a bit tricky. So we sent out a twitter and facebook appeal. We said we needed a bit of help even though we had a long term solution once we’d paid off the loan.”

What did they ask? “Buy one book from us.”

Overnight it went viral and was carried in the Independent who used the shop as an example of how bookshops were struggling all over the country. “It was a local and a national thing.”

They went from a turnover of £200 a day to two and a half thousand the next, with massive online sales on top of that. It got them over the hump and yesterday they paid off the last loan repayment. “What a fantastic feeling!”

Simon admits that to run a bookshop “you have to make a massive sacrifice but these sacrifices ARE the benefits. This is so much better than working in Waterstones.”


You can find the Big Green Bookshop at;

Unit 1, Brampton Park Road, Wood Green, N22 6BG
Tel 020 8881 6767

Twitter @biggreenbooks


This is the first of a new Big Smoke series looking at local, independent bookshops in London. If you want to suggest a place for us to cover please do email us at




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