York's Little Apple bookshop has celebrated 23 years in business - and surviving lockdown - by launching a website. Co-owner PHILIPPA MORRIS reports...

The Little Apple bookshop opened in Goodramgate in May 1997 - so 23 years ago this month.. But instead of having a big party to celebrate - well, how could we in the circumstances? - we have spent the last month building a website. It went live last week.

We felt we had to do something. The shop closed in March due to Covid-19 and we couldn’t see how we could get back to anything like the amount of trade we had, for at least a year.

We are a destination bookshop. People love visiting us and spending a long time browsing. We have customers from all over the UK and the rest of the world that make a point of visiting when they are in York. Without them it will be very hard.

So we have tried to recreate just a bit of the Little Apple experience online. We have a selection of our Little Apple favourite novels, plus we can still order things in for people as we used to in the shop. Everything is a bit slower now as the book warehouses are all having to follow special safety guidelines but I think people understand. We have been touched by local customers out there trying to support local businesses and have had some lovely messages.

I’m pleased to be back in the shop and though we can’t let anyone in for the time being, it is good to be surrounded by books again. I can answer the phone (10am-1pm) and let people order that way, too, as not everyone has the internet. It has been lovely to chat to a few regulars.

May 1997, when we first opened, was the month Tony Blair’s Labour government took over and the country was coming out of a recession. There was a genuine air of optimism about and three shops opened on High Petergate that month.

When Tim Curtis and I drew up the original business plan for the shop we took a real leap of faith. According to the Booksellers Association, the premises were too small and we were advised against opening here. The huge mega-bookstores were starting to be established in the UK. We had both worked in bookshops before though and felt confident that careful stock selection, good customer service and enthusiasm would get us through.

It was also a bit of a homecoming for me. I'm from York but had spent the previous few years in London. For Tim it was a venture into the great unknown of the North. Like many people that come to York though, he now couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Looking back at pictures of the shop in that first year it looks incredibly sparse compared to now, but we had to build things up. Now every bit of space available is used. It has been part of the pleasure over the years, learning what our customers want and adapting to that. That first year we sold a lot of Bridget Jones Diary and books on the Titanic. There was a book on Ghosts of York by Mr Mitchell from St Peter’s School and that was our bestseller.

When we started the street wasn’t pedestrianised and felt very different. We had a doctor’s surgery over the road and people parking outside all day. We have seen our side of town really blossom over the years. It used to feel as though, even though we were within the city wall,s we were outsiders. No cars, and thousands more tourists mean it is part of the flow of the city now.

These days we seem to specialise in signed books. Tourists (when we have any) like our gift table and locals still rely on us for recommendations for good reads. Plus our children’s section has grown hugely. It is a reflection of how publishing has changed too that there are some very gorgeous books published now with a real eye on production values and illustrations, which helped the physical book fight back against the now ebbing tide of downloads. Books that you want to keep for years because they are such a joy to dip into.

The Little Apple bookshop is now online at littleapplebookshop.co.uk/or you can ring in the mornings on 01904 676103.

You can read Little Apple's latest 'book of the week' recommendation here