Many thanks to Emma Longstaff from Books Combined Blog for sharing with me her interview with Christina Oakley Harrington, owner of Treadwell’s Bookshop in London. I have had a longstanding relationship with Treadwell’s; not only is it a fabulous esoteric bookshop, it also puts on some fascinating events, talks and workshops. It is so important to support independent book stores in this age of Amazon. Visiting Treadwell’s is a unique experience that just can’t be replicated when buying online, particularly given the specialist nature of many of the books. Browsing and taking your time in such wonderful places can be a magical experience. If you are ever in London, do please visit. You will find Treadwell’s is at 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS.
I founded Treadwell’s in 2003, after having been an academic. I decided I wanted to do something different with my life. I had a mission in mind – to create a place that would be a bridge, a meeting point, between the world of scholarship and the esoteric world. Right from the beginning, that’s been my ambition.
My PhD was in the history of religion but I also had a lifelong private interest in Western mystical traditions and Pagan religions. It was a bold move to open a bookshop just as the online retail of books was taking off. I went into the bank to apply for a small loan, and the bank manager looked me in the eye and asked if I’d heard of something called Amazon. I had to explain to him why I was opening an independent bookshop in spite of Amazon. I had a very well-prepared speech.
What I told the bank manager, and what I still tell my staff, is that we have to work very hard to offer what the online experience can never provide, and that’s expertise, guidance, one-to-one interaction. Often people come in and they don’t really know what information they want or need. They come specifically to Treadwell’s for that process of discovery. All of our staff are really knowledgeable and we’ve given them extra training on how to tease out from customers what they’re looking for, even if they don’t have the words to describe it themselves. We also offer a place to meet other people who share an interest in the esoteric and mystical – we do that through our events, which have socials before and after, and again through the expertise of our staff. If you’re fascinated by Druids, and if you love the idea of Stonehenge and the mystical experience of nature you can buy all the books you like on Amazon, but if you come down to Treadwell’s our booksellers will know where there are other druids in London or Staffordshire or anywhere else. We’re guides, not just booksellers.
We don’t just sell books. We sell a range of herbs, essential oils and other supplies, from cauldrons to Abramelin oil, a magical oil used in ceremony to get in touch with holy guardian angels. People will come in to us because they want to give a new house protection, or they want to give a charm to their new niece or nephew. Tarot reading is also really important to us because it is a divinatory or fortune telling art that is grounded in the Western esoteric tradition. Tarot is a very learned practice – it takes about ten years of serious practice and study to become any good at it. We’re proud to have a space where we can showcase the very best tarot readers, who have been practising their symbolic art for 20, 30, 40 years. They’re some of the most extraordinary people… (read the entire interview here)