On a recent trip to Antwerp, we visited one of our favourite stockists Boekhandel Stad Leest to find out about their beautiful bookshop and why it’s become so popular.
Boekhandel Stad Leest roughly translates to ‘The City Reads’ and was started about 5 years ago by Sofie van der Ven and Wouter Cajot . They wanted to make an edited bookshop, selling the books they believed in and could talk to their customers about. So they decided there would be no shelves in their shop, just table tops where they could open and talk about the books with their customers. They became book-guides, helping their customers find the books they’d love.
The idea first came when Wouter was working in book distribution and Sofie had a child care business. They wanted to do something together and decided to open a shop selling books for children. Rather than waiting for customers to walk through the door they went to them; they hosted get togethers with new parents and talked about their favourite books for their kids. They realised that what most people wanted was a good recommendation and guide and the idea worked. They soon expanded to their current space - making room for books for adults and fine paper goods - sourced from travels around the world. ‘When we find something we love, we buy it, bring it home and try and find a supplier so that we can offer it to our customers in Antwerp’ And have opened a separate gift shop Wunderkammer along the same street.
Becoming book guides was taken further last year when Wouter was asked to talk about his favourite new books on a popular culture show on Dutch televison. His sincere delivery and passion about the books he described was a hit and he now has a regular monthly slot where he picks his favourite 4 books. He’s become so popular with the viewers that he now occasionally gets people asking him to sign the books he’s recommended.
We love the idea of reliable guides. In these times of everything available all the time, it’s so refreshing to find people that use non-digital methods (wandering, talking, and exploring) to give us a trusted edit. It’s what we aspire to do here at Polite and hope to continue to find interesting, genuinely valuable selections brought to you via interesting and adventurous stockists like Sofie and Wouter, all around the world.
Boekhandel Stad Leest (Steenhouwersvest 16) https://www.facebook.com/tstadleest/
Wunderkammer (Steenhouwersvest 13) https://www.facebook.com/wunderkammer.be/