Not every shop is closing down due to the crisis; American-owned Rana bookshop has celebrated its first anniversary in Valencia.
In the film ‘You’ve Got Mail’ Meg Ryan’s friendly bookshop is forced out of business by the discount mega-bookstore Fox. In reality, with the advent of e-books and fierce competition, the opposite is happening in the US, according to Christina Gebbia, the American owner of the Rana Bookshop, which opened its door (actually the door snazzily opens itself) with a warm embrace to the public in May 2012.
Valencia has been crying out for an English (language) bookshop ever since the English Book Centre closed its doors many years ago, and now there is a place for us, somewhere a place for us, run by people who really love books rather than just selling product.
You can tell when you glide in through the door on a pneumatic whoosh that the people here know what they sell, and know how to create a welcoming atmosphere.
The first thing that grabs your attention is the bible-black central column with painstakingly chalked sections of Dylan Thomas’s ‘Under Milk Wood’, Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’, the ‘Owl and the Pussycat’ and some D H Lawrence.
Christina met Lázaro, her husband, an IT specialist from Valencia during her 3 month stint at the University of Valencia, where she had come from her native Michigan to finish her anthropology degree.
At first they set up an IT company together, and, ten years later, after selling that, in February 2012 they started work on Rana (the name I’m assured comes from a nursery rhyme so please don’t make any tasteless jokes about frogs like I did).
Two months later, after a successful trial run at the Valencia Book Fair, where they sold out their stock of adult (in the totally innocent non-children sense of the word) books, that silkily swishing door slid open for the first time, offering a lot more than books.
For one thing they offer English language sessions both for adults and children, in small groups for which you can buy a ticket for various sessions or just one. The English language classes have become extremely successfull and they now have a group of teachers who impart classes to adults every day including Saturdays.
The kids can choose from Rhyme Time, Story Time and Game Time, while the adult sessions are graded by level.
There’s also a Kids’ Club Saturday at midday, and a whole range of language games on sale both for children and language teachers, including posters, pet puzzles, and witty little booklets with names like ‘I Married Miss Right’.
But the other great things is that, following the Little Bookshop around the Corner model, book browsers are made welcome by the fact that the shop is also a bar/café, where you can rest your weary shopper’s feet and choose from a wide range of herbal teas, or stronger beverages, and read some of the books that lie on the table awaiting your pleasure.
Lázaro was mainly responsible for the décor, and the shop has been fitted out with an eclectic array of furniture and fittings, including milk churn lampshades over the tables, a working fridge/chest acting as a coffee table, a sofa from Brighton, bar lamps from France and sundry furniture from Castellón.
They also organise special events like the Jubilee Tea Party to celebrate the continued delay in Prince Charles becoming King and authors’ night featuring local English language authors such as Jason Webster, Mark Hodder and Susana Fortes.