How was this new project to open a bookshop in the centre of Barcelona conceived?
Fourteen years ago, with my partner, Víctor Manuel Sánchez, we opened an academic and informative publishing house, Huygens. After many years of seeing the market from the publisher’s side, we had always wanted to move to the other side and expand the business with a general interest bookstore. We started planning it four years ago. First we looked for the place, then how to do the renovation, the permits, the money... We started the refurbishing in November 2019 and wanted to open in April 2020, but the pandemic started and we had to stop, like everyone else. The feeling of loneliness on the streets was shocking. And like everyone else, we didn’t know how long it would last, just a couple of weeks... It was difficult to find the building materials... Everything got complicated, but in the end we came out the other side and opened in November. The first day we cried, because it was very emotional. It’s a very personal project.
Given the current situation, it’s certainly a very brave business venture...
The truth is that in this complicated situation, there was also a great desire for good news, for culture, for being able to go out, for recreational and cultural activities... and the response and perception have been very good. Not only in the neighbourhood, which is happy to have a cultural establishment of some size, but also in the media, and without having done a big campaign. There was interest in knowing how we had got here. And that’s helped make us known. People are discovering us, mainly people from Barcelona, of course, because there aren’t many possibilities for moving around.
How has the pandemic affected the initial business plan?
We made some predictions, with a business plan, but it has had to be redone, of course. Despite the circumstances, we’re happy with the reception and the start, which has been good at a time when everything is so difficult.
Does the Byron bookstore have a concept?
It has a domestic focus. We wanted a quiet, peaceful, ample space with warmth and comfort. To be a kind of oasis in the Eixample district. The aim is also to have many related activities, from the cuisine in the cafeteria to presentations, conferences, workshops, reading clubs, courses, music and exhibitions. We want the concept of a shop, but also of a dynamic cultural centre. Now it remains to be seen whether all this is sustainable. We’re streaming small format presentations, for people who can’t come here. When everything is back to normal, the intention is to establish ourselves as a solid cultural space, offering attractive, coherent and interesting products and services, also as a bookstore, with a good catalogue.
What types of books does Byron stock?
We are general interest, in the sense that, as far as space allows, we want to have a good representation of almost everything. It’s impossible to cover all subjects, but we want the selection to be interesting. And not just new books. New publications have a very fast rotation. If you focus only on that, you need a lot of space to allow for the next ones. We also have a selection of background books, from one, five or ten years ago.