“IT’S A sad feeling when you finish a good book - you think ‘that’s been part of my life for the past few days.' Books are incredible - they transport you to a whole different world.”

As a child Sara Elliott loved immersing herself in books. “I’ve always adored books,” she says. “My mum and dad were big readers and books have always been a huge part of my life. I’ve never lost my love of books.”

So it perhaps comes as no surprise that Sara now runs her own bookshop. She took on the Bookshop on the Square in the heart of Otley in September 2020.

Sara loves opening the door on a morning and greeting customers throughout the day. “People seem to like the shop. I get a lot of young families coming in - my children’s range is wonderful - and older customers come and we have a chat. Often people meet their friends here.

“We have gorgeous books and lovely greeting cards - I am so proud of the shop. I called it The Bookshop on the Square because I was so used to hearing people saying ‘I’m at the bookshop on the square’, or ‘I’ll meet you at the bookshop on the square.’ I thought ‘That’s exactly what it is.”

“The shop is definitely part of the community.”

Yet, despite her passion for books, Sara did not set out to run a bookshop.

As a mature student studying English at Leeds Trinity University, she decided to take a year out. “I had three young children at the time. I saw a job advertised to work in a new bookshop in Otley and applied.”

She got it and started as manager of Just Books, owned by Phil Emery, who ran a number of remainder bookshops across West Yorkshire. “I started as manager and then became buyer and general manager.”

She enjoyed her job so much that she decided to give up her studies and stay.

Fast-forward 24 years and, after Phil retired, Sara took on the shop, turning it into a traditional bookseller.

She was meant to take over in April 2020, but had to put her plans on hold due to Covid. Though a hard time to be starting a business, lockdown gave her chance to redecorate the premises and put her stamp on it.

“We had just gone into Christmas mode when the second lockdown came. It was a shock, and then came a third which was totally unexpected, but that gave me the opportunity to get a new carpet and shelving, and a new till and computerised stock control system - all the things I wanted to do.

“With its new signage the shop looks so good on the square - it’s in the perfect spot. The support for me has been really humbling. During lockdown a lot of people knew that they could go on Amazon and get something a couple of pounds cheaper but the fact they chose to support their local bookshop was brilliant. I have some lovely customers and have made many lovely friends.”

In the early days of opening Sara took on her mum Shelia, a former librarian. She has been there ever since. Long-time staff member Linda works alongside Chloe, Sara’s daughter Imogen and Izzy, who works on a Saturday.

“Imogen is about to have a baby - I will be able to buy lots of baby books,” says Sara.

The shop stocks many local interest titles including walks, local history and nature.

“We have a very wide range,” says Sara, “I try to read as widely as I possibly can so I can recommend books to people. We get The Bookseller magazine, I read The Guardian on a Saturday and The Sunday Times books pages, and we also have recommendations from publishers and reps, and our wholesaler’s website is fantastic. Booktime magazine is excellent too.”

Local authors carry out readings at the shop. “Boff Whalley came last year for a talk and signing of his book Faster! Louder!, and murder mystery author JR Ellis.” In November TV presenter Anita Rani also visited last year for a signing.

“If you love books you appreciate the atmosphere of a bookshop, the tactile nature of a book, the whole experience. It enhances a high street to have an independent bookshop.

“It’s very different to chains which are often told what to stock and display. I can curate my own stock and try to fill the shop with lovely books.

“I like things that are a little bit different. Of course we also stock the bestsellers, but I look for niche titles that are interesting and you wouldn’t see everywhere.”

The shop can fulfil customer orders to collect the next day.

Sara could not have found a more fitting career. “I absolutely love my job. I’ve never had a day when I have said to myself ‘Oh, I’ve got to get back to work. I love the fact that no two days are the same.”