Chances are if you’ve taken a stroll down Lark Lane any time in the last, ooh, 30 years, you’ve passed one of the delights of South Liverpool – The Amorous Cat bookshop.
This enduring second-hand bookshop should be a port of call for anyone visiting Lark Lane or Sefton Park, and is worth a trip in itself. It boasts 10,000 books, many of which you might struggle to track down elsewhere, and at very reasonable prices.
There’s a significant collection of local books, but really there’s something for everyone in the shop – perfect for a browse, or if you’re seeking a gift.
The shop has become very much part of the furniture of the Lane, and it’s clear that its presence is very much a key element of what makes Lark Lane such a wonderful place.
SevenStreets is a frequent visitor, and dropped in one sleepy Sunday for a chat with Ron and Jan Sear, proprietors of the shop since the early 80s.
And, since we’re in the holiday season, we asked for an Amorous Cat Summer reading list for you to while away your lazy days…
SS: Tell us the story of the Amorous Cat
Jan: We started in 1981 at 82 Lark Lane – now part of the Community Centre – selling new books, you might say radical books, as we were active in a lot of causes.
We closed in 1989, by which time we’d moved towards selling second-hand books, and went back to working in education for several years until re-opening in 1997, with the help of [Liverpool campaigner] Florence Gersten.
That shop closed in 2002 and we moved to number 43 Lark Lane, where we stayed for two years. In 2006 Ron took voluntary redundancy from his job as an IT lecturer and I subsequently retired from working as an English Literature lecturer at the Open University, and we opened the current premises at number 47 in 2006.
It was so successful we had to cut back on opening hours as we were run off our feet, and we do a lot of work on the internet now. We have around 10,000 books listed on the internet, but the prices are cheaper in the shop.
SS: What’s the difference between running the physical shop and running the virtual store?
Ron: People think that the internet is cheaper but it’s not. Booksellers have to pay franchise fees to Amazon and the like, but they can get it in shop from a third off.
Then again, many people live 100 miles from a bookshop, so we get a lot of trade from Australia, the States and elsewhere
Jan: We’d take money off for regular customers, or if you bought a big pile of books. We use our own discretion when it comes to people actually visiting the shop.
SS: What’s a second-hand bookshop all about, and how are they faring at present?
Ron: We’re interested in interesting books, rather than mass-produced stuff. We’d rather have an old book that’s a bit torn and tatty that’s an interesting book. And thats why a second-hand bookshop will always win out; because it will sell books that Oxfam would skip.
Jan: There used to be ten second-hand bookshops in Liverpool, but now we’re down to three: us, Henry Bohn Books and Reids on Mount Pleasant.
A a lot of them were in rickety old buildings that were knocked down for redevelopment and they couldn’t afford the rent. Owning the building The Amorous Cat is in now is a big advantage.
SS: What does owning The Amorous Cat mean to you?
Jan: One of our raisons d’etre is to get children to read – most of our kids’ books are under a pound and sometimes we let children have the books if they don’t have the money.
We’re not particularly interested in the antiquarian end of the market, although we have the knowledge we’re simply not interested – its only for collectors, not for readers.
SS: Do you buy books?
Ron: We do buy books, but we have to be picky because there’s only so much room in the shop. The issue with buying books is the antiques roadshow syndrome where they think it’s old and they think it’s valuable – and quite often it’s not.
Our prices are far cheaper than London prices, people here think we’re quite expensive but we have dealers from London buying ours and selling them for double the price in London!
SS: What are your favourite places in Liverpool?
I like the Everyman and Playhouse – I go to almost everything that’s on – and the Tate too. Goodison Park is my favourite place in all of Liverpool – I’m a season ticket holder.
Ron: Which is why I have to look after the shop in Liverpool. Riley’s snooker hall in Allerton is my favourite place, because it must be one of the cheapest forms of entrainment on the planet.
Three of us go and it’s 4 pounds for three hours of entertainment!
SS: Since it’s the holiday season, could you give us five alternative summer reads in place of blockbusters?
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons [Riotous comic novel on life with the dysfunctional Starkadder family]
Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter [Examination of women in literature via myths and fairy tale]
Reid’s Nautical Almanac [Exhaustive data on Atlantic coastal waters around the British Isles and Europe – both Jan and Ron sail]
Vida by Marge Piercy [A radical activist lives a precarious double life]
Alex Young – The Golden Vision [Biography of the former Everton and Scotland striker]
The Amorous Cat
47 Lark Lane
Tel: 07932 767 342
• The Amorous Cat is open:
Friday 10am to 5pm
Saturday 10am to 5pm
Sunday 10am to 5pm
The shop is technically closed from Monday to Thursday, but Ron and Jan are inside, customers are welcome to browse or buy.