If the old Foyles was a bookish uncle in a soup-stained cardigan, the new Foyles is a hip teenage cousin: ahead of the curve where apps and indie cinema are concerned, but sporting a pair of off-puttingly flash trainers. Foyles has always been one of those shops that trades partly on sentiment, with its labyrinthine layout, oddball-friendly café and loyal staff: Giles Armstrong, manager of the foreign languages department and Foyles' longest serving, had clocked up an impressive half-century on the payroll in 2015. News that Foyles was moving, and its much-loved café closing, was greeted with understandable dismay by Time Out readers, but standing in the vast, updated premises (just a couple of doors down from the old one, in the former Central Saint Martins HQ) it's easy to understand the decision.
Foyles CEO Sam Husain describes the new store as ‘a bookshop for the twenty-first century’, with 37,000 square feet of floorspace laid out immaculately by architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands around an impressive central atrium, and eight levels (four actual floors) packed with more than 200,000 books. Wherever you stand, you can see every part of the building, and the place is bathed in a gentle, contemplation-inducing glow. It’s light years away from the dusty nooks and crannies of the old building, and a bold visual statement of Foyles’s ambition and new image.
In the age of the e-reader and Amazon, punters need a good reason to visit a bookshop, and the new story has plenty. Books aside, the focus is on the social aspect of reading. A whole floor is dedicated to events, from readings by Michael Palin and Jarvis Cocker, to themed reading groups or literary tours. The swish new café is run by Leafi, the people behind Whitechapel Gallery's smart bistro, so expect something slick rather than homely. There's also a capacious art space curated by cultural innovators Future City.
There are no real signs of the building’s former life, although one was uncovered during the redevelopment, in the form of ‘a big wall that had been given a going over by some art students’, according to the shop’s manager. This is in stark contrast to the old premises, where expansion work turned up disused rooms and even lifts that no one knew anything about.
|Venue name:||Foyles Charing Cross Road||Contact:|
107 Charing Cross Rd
|Opening hours:||Open 9.30am-9pm Mon-Sat; 11.30am-6pm Sun|
|Transport:||Tube: Tottenham Court Rd|
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Most bookshops can order what you’re after and get the books in pretty fast but there’s not much pleasure shopping that way and the great thing about Foyles is that it generally has titles in stock so you can buy on the spot.All the departments are clearly signed and there are loads of books displayed at eye level to tempt you on the way up the stairs. Shopping’s normally a pleasure here, with no-one hassling you but plenty of staff at the counters if you need help to locate something. Just one black mark: on a recent visit the air conditioning was set to ‘arctic chill’, which made it impossible to linger and browse.
I am missing the old Foyles - alas the Mecca of bookshops was brought in for disassembly, however a new ship was launched and what a modern thoroughbred of bookshops it is. Waterstones et al, have nothing on this baby - I would say one thing - things will never be the same. CEO? Profits and marketshares? This is just not Foyles.
I loved the blog post about the new Foyles opening next week.
I'm intrigued to see their new performance space. God I remember how quirky Foyles used to be, handing the book in to someone behind the counter who filled out a form which you then went to another counter where you paid and receipt was stamped, then back to the original desk, handed in the receipt and collected your book. Christina Foyle was bonkers but that's how it was done! I look forward to visiting the new store.
Foyles have been a keen supported of the Science Fiction Book Club (http://www.sciencefictionbookclub.org) since its founding and for which we are very grateful :) Viva la Foyles!