Final chapter as Alex says bye to bookshop

Stuart and Mary Manley are either side of John Alex Kim.
Stuart and Mary Manley are either side of John Alex Kim.

A long-standing member of staff, who is credited for playing a vital role in the growth of a renowned second-hand bookshop, has retired after more than 20 years of service.

John Alexander Kim, known as Alex, reached the final chapter of his stint at Alnwick’s Barter Books last Thursday, having worked as the store’s chief valuer.

The 65-year-old enjoyed his time at the quirky shop and admits he was fortunate to combine his working life with his love of books, particularly antiquarian and rare titles.

“I am sad to leave,” said Alex, from Longhoughton.

“It has been a great experience and it has been great to see the shop grow over the years.”

During his time at the store, former art teacher Alex has repaired and restored books, as well as going to people’s houses to give valuations. He has also attended numerous auctions.

A strong contingent of the store’s workforce turned out for his retirement party at the town’s Tanners Arms on October 30. It was testament to his professionalism and his personality. His importance to Barter Books is not lost on owners Stuart and Mary Manley.

“He has played such a vital role,” said Mary.

In 1991, when the Manleys started the bookshop – which was much smaller then – the focus was second-hand paperbacks. They believed they could teach themselves how to value paperbacks, but thought hardbacks would be tougher.

They eventually started to take in hardbacks, and then antiquarian works, but needed someone with an in-depth knowledge to cast an expert eye. They were introduced to Alex in the early 1990s – and the rest is history.

Mary said: “Thanks to Alex, first our hardback section, and then our antiquarian section grew, and with his help, among other things, the largest second-hand paperback bookshop in Alnwick was on its way to becoming one of the largest second-hand bookshops in Britain.”