Shop Talk

Grafik is very excited about the opening of the new magCulture shop – a dedicated magazine store which is sure to delight both independent publishers and magophiles alike.

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As he puts the finishing touches to his brand new St John's Street retail space, we caught up with Mr magCulture himself, Jeremy Leslie, to find out exactly what's in store for customers.

When did you first get the idea to open a magCulture shop?

I've always thought London deserved a better magazine shop; there are several good ones, of course, and if you know your stuff you know exactly where to go for what, but when you travel to other cities you find dedicated magazine shops that supercede anything London can currently offer. A year or so ago the growing interest in independent magazines focused my mind – if I didn't open that shop, someone else was going to.  

You must have visited quite a few mag shops on your travels, which are your favourites and what did you learn from them about what might work in the magCulture shop?
There are two shops that have inspired ours. The Atheneaum in Amsterdam is a busy treasure trove of a shop that stocks a vast range of magazines of all types. You will always be surprised by something new there. Berlin’s Do You Read Me?! takes a more gallery-like approach, with all the magazines presented under bright lights and with the full cover visible. Both shops are notable for their knowledgable staff and the dominance of magazines over other stock. They're both shrines to magazines.

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What influenced your choice of area? Was it hard to find a suitable property?
It was very difficult finding the right property, until suddenly we did. At first Lesley (super-supportive wife) and I just drove round parts of London at weekends looking for estate agents boards above shops. We quickly found somewhere in Dalston we thought was perfect. But we lost that site to a supermarket – part of the learning curve – and I turned my attention to other areas. I wrote a list of several potential streets in London, and one in Waterloo felt really good – I even leafleted the area asking for leads. That didn't come to anything but I learned that to get the right space you need to hire a consultant to get you first in the viewing line.

With that consultant on board things moved quickly; I visited some really bad sites but when I saw the St John Street site it was intriguing, and when I realised what lay under the fake ceiling and plastic tiles it was an obvious choice, an interesting space in a good location. It's bang in the centre of a triangle mapped by Angel, Old Street and Farringdon stations.  

What’s been the most challenging aspect so far? Has anything changed since you first hatched your plans to open the shop?
The toughest challenge was getting through the legal stuff around the lease. It took an unbelievable amount of time to sort the details. I first visited the shop in May, and thought opening in September was a sound ambition. But here we are in mid December. Aside from that, the plans have remained pretty much on course as originally conceived.  

What can people expect to find in the shop? How many different titles will you stock?
The shop will be a showroom for magazines; the design and presentation will match the level of care and attention put into the magazines themselves. Visitors will be welcome to browse and take their time. We're aiming for 500 titles, although the way publishing schedules work that doesn't necessarily mean we'll have that number in stock at any one time. These will primarily be indie titles from around the world, but will also include the best from the big publishers and I hope some rarities from abroad. It'll be a hub for all magCulture activities – if you read our Journal you'll know the publications to expect. We're also looking at stocking back issues of certain favourites.

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You’ve mentioned that the shop won’t be selling coffee or gift-type products, what’s the reason for that?
From the start I wanted it to be a pure-play magazine shop, a celebration of editorial without the distraction of other items. As soon as you stock a significant volume of other things you become a bookshop (with magazines), or a gift shop (with magazines). The magCulture Shop was conceived as a magazine shop through and through. You will find books about editorial design, and related products and friends' projects, but they will be auxiliary to the magazines.  

Will you be holding events in the space?
Yes. The space has been designed to be adaptable; it's dominated by a 6m wide x 2m tall shelf of magazines that separates the shop from the magCulture studio. This shelf is mobile, it can slide back to increase the size of the front part for events. We hope to have launches of new issues and other regular events; the space has the potential to become a focal point for London's indie mags. Watch out for a full programme in the new year.  

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of opening a shop?
Opening a shop is one of those things nobody can prepare you for. You can't be half-engaged, it's all or nothing and that's really taxing, as there are so many ups and downs. And we haven't even opened yet. My advice (to myself as much as anyone else) is to remember to make the most of those ups.

The magCulture Shop opens on Friday 11 December 2015, and visitors at lunch time on Saturday 12 December will receive a complimentary glass of fizz.

magCulture Shop
270 St John Street
London EC1V 4PE

Opening hours
Weds – Fri 11am-7pm
Sat 12-4pm