Introducing…………………. Keith & Frances
Frances & Keith have led a blameless married life for over 30 years and have had a whole patchwork of careers in that time. We have two grown-up children, Katherine who is a University Lecturer, and David who works in IT and developed the website for us.
Frances graduated in the late 60s with a degree in Sociology, having studied at the then Rutherford College in Newcastle upon Tyne (now the University of Northumbria). After a brief and unhappy period teaching in a secondary modern school, she joined Fenwicks as a graduate trainee, and fell in love with retailing. She has worked for several big retailers, including the John Lewis Partnership for which she retains a profound admiration.
Keith attended the Manchester Grammar School and obtained his history degree from St John’s College, Oxford. He worked for the Metal Box Company before joining Newcastle University as a Research Associate. This is when he and Frances met, Keith romantically asking Frances, then Manager of Etams, about delivery schedules and lorry movements in Northumberland Street! Keith then became Operations Manager for Halfords running his own warehouses and fleets of lorries.
Moving quickly on, a greengrocers in Dartmouth, where we maintain contacts, including with the artist Simon Drew whose cards we now stock, was followed by a couple of shops in Yorkshire where we were badly hit by the recession in the early 90s and vowed never, ever to have our own business again!
In the late 90s and early 2000s, while Frances was with JLP and Keith working as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Northumbria, serious health problems caused us to reassess our lives. When we hit on the idea of opening a bookshop, Keith started his research into the Book Industry, travelling far and wide, and building contacts. We were prepared to go almost anywhere in the country as long as it was somewhere we would feel comfortable living and were looking for medium-sized market towns that did not already have a bookshop. We stumbled across an empty shop in Warwick, while on our way from Gloucester to Tamworth, and thus set up Warwick Books in March 2004 being immediately overwhelmed by the welcome we received from our customers, many of whom are now close personal friends.
Serendipity has always played a part in our lives, and in early 2008 we took a rare break to holiday in Rome. While admiring the view from the top of the Coliseum, we turned to find ourselves standing next to Sandra Grimes of Browsers Bookshops. Among other things, we mentioned that we were thinking of setting up a second shop.
Apparently she decided that evening to discuss with her business partner the possibility of letting us take over the shop in Kenilworth. Thus in October 2008, the bookshop in Kenilworth became Kenilworth Books, sister shop to Warwick Books.
So now we have an empire of two bookshops – dare we take another holiday?
I was born and bred in Sheffield and am married with 3 children. My interests include salsa dancing, belly dancing and of course books, and my neighbours and I have recently acquired half an allotment.
My love of books began when I first started school. I remember learning to read all about ‘Peter and Jane’ and from then on I was hooked. My mum used to give me 15p spending money a week and I would save two weeks money and buy an Enid Blyton book. I became an avid reader. As a child my favourite book was ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’. I studied English Literature and began to collect and read the classics. At 17 we moved to Aberdeen where I learned to love hill-walking, skiing and an appreciation of thermal underwear! I lived by myself in university property in old Aberdeen and enjoyed scaring myself by reading Stephen King and James Herbert.
My first real job was in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. One day whilst at work I received a phone call from a gentleman with a very plummy accent explaining he was calling on behalf of the ‘crane’. My mistake; he was calling on behalf of the Queen! I went on to work for the Queen’s surgeon. After a couple of years I became Practice Manager at The Student Health Service, Aberdeen University. Still being in my early 20s I occasionally looked as outlandish as the students; sometimes arriving at work after a weekend out with bright blue hair etc.
When I moved down to Warwickshire to work for the BBC in personnel, a friend and I started up a book group which is still going 8 years later. Since then I have worked in two schools The Church of England Ferncumbe Primary School and Budbrooke.
I first met Frances and Keith when they had just opened up ‘Warwick Books’ and I worked for them part-time. When a more permanent position came up recently I jumped at the chance of working here. I just love working in a bookshop. My only problem is I want to buy most of the books!
I feel that I have worked and known Kenilworth Books through four different eras, firstly in the late 60’s as a child spending my pocket money on as many Enid Blyton books as I could get my hands on. Later working here for Peters, as it was known for many years, then as Browsers, and now as Kenilworth Books. Working with Keith and Frances I feel the shop is in a new and exciting era, moving forward with the times and hosting lots of great author events, bringing to Kenilworth, people like Gervise Phinn, Justin Richards and Peter James to name but a few.The job is varied and fun and Louise and I have worked together for five years and luckily she gets my mad sense of humour. The shop has always had a great atmosphere, which is fabulous to work in.
I love to read anything and everything on Religion, especially the history of religion and how it shapes our world today. For light reading, Phil Rickman; biographies of people who are least over 50 years of age and have lived a bit; teenage fiction; and I have a thing for cookbooks.
I came to work at Kenilworth Books after 11 years in the hospitality trade, then working for Chanel and Elizabeth Arden, and for a few years I owned a Beauty and Holistic Salon with my friend.
In my spare time I love entertaining, and spending time with my (very large) family. I am also training to be a celebrant, which will enable me to oversee baby namings, weddings and funerals.
My friends see me as the joker and I enjoy making them laugh even at my own expense. They do tell me off for doing too much housework, especially hoovering everyday, but I find it therapeutic (WEIRD I KNOW).
I was born in Kenilworth and have lived here all my life as did my great grandfather. I don’t suppose I will ever move, but I’m told by my more adventurous colleague Louise” never say never.” I live with my husband and we have three daughters. Oh and also Olly our ginger cat.