Katarina Runske owns Anna B’s bookshop in Schull, Co Cork. She is originally from Stockholm in Sweden and also owns and runs Grove House restaurant and rooms in the West Cork village.
How long have you had the bookshop?
I have had the bookshop four years this autumn. It has had a few owners over the years. I took it over from Sheila [Whyte]. It is not a money thing for me but it is doing really well. Bookshops are doing well in general.
How did you get into the book-selling business?
I’m in Ireland 31 years and my two boys — they are 27 and 31 now — are Irish. I started off in Durrus, then I was up in Kilbrittain for years and I had businesses in Kinsale — an interiors shop, a shoe shop, I was working in a restaurant and teaching piano — because I was a single mum, I was always working.
I also studied law at UCC — I didn’t finish — and women’s studies. After about 15 years, I bought Grove House and opened up the restaurant. Then I got quite sick, I had cancer. The restaurant is physically very hard work and I’m captain of the ship, so I thought I might just sell Grove House and have normal hours.
I thought the bookshop was going to be my retirement plan. Then Grove House didn’t sell so now I have a restaurant and a bookshop [laughs]. I know, it’s ridiculous but it is working really well. Grove House and the bookshop are kind of helping each other. People come into the restaurant to eat, then they see me and ask if they can order a book. I have the laptop in the kitchen and so while they’re having their dinner, I go in and order their books. I mean, where would you get it?
How is your health now?
I am absolutely 100% recovered. That’s a few years ago now. I’m absolutely fine. I go swimming in the sea every morning. I am touching wood!
It sounds like you have a lot of energy?
I think I do and the fact I had to work so hard when my two boys were small because I was the one putting bread and butter on the table, it becomes ingrained in you and it becomes your habit. People ask me ‘What are you on?’ And I just say ‘I’m on life’, I’m having a great time. And I do think in life, if you like what you do, yes, it’s always easier. I love hanging my 85 napkins on the line in the morning, and I like cooking and I love the bookshop so much. I go in every day and I say ‘Good morning, shop’.
What is it like to trade in Schull?
The bookshop has its different
seasons. Obviously, in the summer, you get a lot of tourists, who would be looking for local history and that side of things. But also so many people have houses down here, they come down for the summer, and they have time to read.
I keep a lot of older books and classics, because people often decide to get a book they’ve been meaning to read. They will go ‘Oh, look I’ve never read Ulysses, now I have four weeks to do it’. Mind you, I’m not sure you’d get through it in four weeks. For the rest of the year, there are a lot of people living down here who like to come in and chat about their books, because I think people are kind of getting tired of the whole Amazon thing. They like to be able to come in and have a chat and the recommendations are so important too.
Do you get any time to read?
In July and Ausgust, I don’t. But for the rest of the year… I’d read 60 books a year. That’s winter, in front of the fire. And obviously, weekdays in the winter here, it’s not exactly hopping. It’s just fire, books, red wine and dogs.
It is a great lifestyle and I am very fortunate. I have worked hard for it but it is just so lovely. I wake up in the mornings and look out at the lovely harbour, and then I go for my swim in the morning, empty some dishwashers and go down to the bookshop for a few hours. And I love it. Children’s books are huge as well. I have a very big Swedish children’s book section, Astrid Lindgren and all of that. They are flying.
It’s hard to beat Pippi Longstocking:
Yes. Right now in my dungarees and my apron, I feel like Pippi Longstocking. She is so strong and independent, she’s great.
And also in the bookshop, when I’m working.I always bring my labrador dog, JJ. I’ll have people coming in from year to year now looking for JJ. And I’ll be like, ‘lads, could you buy a book as well, because JJ needs to be fed for the winter’. I have kids and fully grown men crawling around the floor, petting JJ, it’s very funny.
Where did the name Anna B’s come from?
My granddaughter. She is four years old now. She doesn’t know yet that she has a bookshop named after her but one day she will know.