New chapter for Little Acorns Bookstore in Derry as shop reopens in new location

Little Acorns Bookstore opened the doors of their new Great James’ Street premises on Monday, April 10 after a three month closure.

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Jenni Doherty, proprietor of Little Acorns Bookstore on Great James' Street.Jenni Doherty, proprietor of Little Acorns Bookstore on Great James' Street.
Jenni Doherty, proprietor of Little Acorns Bookstore on Great James' Street.

The much-loved store was previously located on Foyle Street but outgrew the premises after a few years. Jenni Doherty, shop proprietor, couldn't be more excited to have the shop finally open again and to be welcoming her loyal customers back.

She said: “People are just buzzing for us to be open again. So many people have been in touch saying how they've been waiting patiently. I haven't stopped smiling. I’ve only been open two weeks now but it already feels like I've been accepted into the community of the street. I've had various businesses in the immediate area pop in to welcome Little Acorns to the street and it's been appreciated.”

Little Acorns is now located on 18 Great James' Street, in a three-storey Georgian building. The bottom floor is now open, which houses the reception area, children's and Young Adult section complete with seating areas, cards and gifts, and Jenni's unofficial mascot – a Scooby Doo teddy.

Little Acorns Children and Young Adult's room.Little Acorns Children and Young Adult's room.
Little Acorns Children and Young Adult's room.

"When we started the move and bringing things over, I thought we would never fill the whole building," said Jenni. “But now, every room is full. I feel like I've grown up. I started with a wee table of 100 books and now I have 60,000 books in a three storey building. I didn't ever dream this but it's amazing!

“The very first room that I wanted to get done, and I think one of the most important genres, is the children and young adults room. I have never had space for chairs or sofas so I literally have just created a place I would love to live in. I thought about what I would have cherished as a child and recreated that.

"This building is just absolutely gorgeous, I really want to do it justice. I’m hoping this will be a forever home for Little Acorns so I want to create a safe space where people can come in and feel at home or for a bit of escapism. You can come in on your own, bring your family, there's no pressure. There can be silence or there can be chat. What I love about this building is that every single room is so different and has so much light coming in. I can't wait to curate each room and fill with books.

“Unfortunately, you can’t live on books alone so I want to become more like a destination than a location and not just a retail space. I want to do events and have authors and illustrators visit, hold book clubs, readings, book launches and signings. A space for everyone, regardless of class, creed, race, gender and where it is as much for the local person that lives up the street as someone who is visiting for the first time."

Kathy Donaghy launching her book Finding My Wild in Little Acorns Bookstore.Kathy Donaghy launching her book Finding My Wild in Little Acorns Bookstore.
Kathy Donaghy launching her book Finding My Wild in Little Acorns Bookstore.

Both new and secondhand books are available in Little Acorns, and Jenni prides herself on the fact that books that are donated never go to landfill. If a book isn’t suitable for resale, she donates it for arts and crafts to local organisations or to various book charities who are able to distribute it elsewhere. Jenni cleans, repairs and values all the books herself and she painstakingly checks each book six times to make sure the quality is good.

“Books are gifts you can open again and again. A book is probably one of the few things that, with age, they become more precious,” said Jenni.

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Jenni received a ‘phenomenal’ amount of support with her move from friends, families, customers and other local businesses when moving the shop content. She fondly remembers the thirty plus people who helped lovingly transport her precious typewriters from Foyle Street to the second floor room of the new shop with help from a Translink bus.

“What I’ve really come to realise with this move,” Jenni said, “is that I couldn’t be in a better town. Derry and Donegal people are just the best - the kindness, the friendliness, the craic that we’ve had with this move has just been wonderful. I feel like they’re all on this journey with me. Derry is probably one of the few cities left that has so many amazing independent businesses, from florists to cafes to craft shops and everything in between. If we want to keep this city unique, we have to hold on to those little keyholders that have been here for generations, places like McLaughlin’s and Fiorentini's that you remember from your youth."

Jenni Doherty and Kathy Donaghy.Jenni Doherty and Kathy Donaghy.
Jenni Doherty and Kathy Donaghy.

Jenni is an avid typewriter collector and will dedicate one room of her new store to Ireland’s first ever Typewriter Museum. Included in Jenni’s collection are typewriters from the late soprano Maureen Hegarty, one used by a reporter at the Londonderry Sentinel's reporters’ and by the secretary of Field Day when it first started up. Other typewriters have come from people’s attics or private collections. Three special Irish language typewriters have also been donated to Jenni by children's author Myra Zepf. The typewriters belonged to Myra's father, the late father Ruairí Ó Bléine, a medic and author, who wrote several letters requesting the production of typewriters in Irish font with a ‘ponc séimhithe’ and fadas. Jenni is hoping that the Typewriter Museum will entice enthusiasts from all over the world to visit Derry to view the collection – including Tom Hanks who has been searching for an Irish typewriter for years to add to his collection.

Although Jenni is excited about the fresh start for Little Acorns, the lack of a functioning Stormont Executive is something that makes her deeply worried about her own future and the wellbeing of the city.

“The fact that there's nobody in Stormont is disgraceful and it’s scary,” she said. “We’ve just commemorated the 25th anniversary of The Good Friday Agreement and when you think of all we’ve gone through since then to now, with nobody in Stormont, it's disgraceful. There’s so many young people emigrating abroad, they’re not staying here because there’s no direction, no jobs, few prospects. We voted these people in and while we’re all doing our jobs and doing our best, they're not. The rates going up by 8% is also shocking. As a business owner, the energy crisis, cost of living, the trade union strikes, cuts in the health service and education sector affects each and every one us. Those in power don't realise that they are also strangling our businesses. Derry’s the second city but where’s the university and the infrastructure? We’re all angry so my message is for them to get back to work and sort things out. I hope with the elections coming up that voters vote appropriately. We deserve better."

Little Acorns Bookstore is open every day from 10am-6pm, except Wednesdays (temporarily) and Sunday. For more information, visit Little Acorns Bookstore on Facebook.

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