Musing on moving

The Magalleria physical store shifted house in September 2021. Moving a magazine inventory of this scale was something few businesses will have attempted because there are hardly any large magazine stores like ours on earth.

Susan and I have shifted house over 14 times since we met in London. We made numerous moves around that city wrapped around a year spent in in New Zealand in the mid-90s where we moved a few more times. A job posting for Susan took us to Bournemouth for a while, and then finally to our last three homes in Bath. The early moves could be managed using taxis or with a friend’s car or van, and the later ones obviously involved planes, ships and removals trucks.

But none of this shifting around could have prepared us for moving a fraction of a mile from our old store at 22a Broad Street to our new one at 5 Upper Borough Walls. This required packing and transporting many thousands of magazines, a heart-sinking prospect with which only those who have moved enormous collections of delicate or heavy objects can empathise. And naturally it was the most complicated and arduous move we have ever undertaken.

Somehow, we did it. After six years (arguably after only a couple) we had grown out of the space in Broad Street. Magazines can be heavy and bulky – as unfortunately many of ours are – yet fragile at the same time. They’re not as robust as books. If they get marked with even the lightest bump or speck they can’t be sold online because online customers are fussier than in-store shoppers. But somehow we managed to squeeze them onto the shelves and carefully squirrelled away the rest in boxes under tables, around the shop itself and in the small storage space we had out the back.

Then we had to move the whole lot, as well as furniture and a number of fittings. It meant opening and repacking all the boxes we’d stashed and trying to organise the magazines all into future category areas for the new space, but this quickly reverted to opening the boxes and glancing the contents then just labelling them, a process that was eventually problematic when we had to reuse the boxes and rewrite all the labels.

Despite all our house move training we unrealistically scoped the job in so many ways. Our wise and unfazed removal guy told us that 100 boxes would not be anywhere near enough to shift so many magazines and he was right. We used more than three times that. It took two full Luton van loads to move most of them, plus we borrowed a friend’s Berlingo van to carry three loads of the remaining heavy stuff. Susan made countless runs up and down Broad Street with a sack trolley, often dragging our single Henry vacuum cleaner, an essential appliance when you’re closing one shop and opening another at the same time.

You might wonder why we did both at the same time. Unlike a house move, where you have advance notice of your moving date, shop keys are usually released as soon as the paperwork is signed – inevitably following many false hopes, delays and hold-ups. Unlike large and even medium sized companies who have a roster of tradespeople on standby, or even employ their own, it’s very difficult for a small business to fully commit to and plan a fit-out, especially during a pandemic. The knock-on in 2021 decimated the ranks of trade services we hoped to call on. A full repair lease means the old shop must be restored to its former self or something close to it. We got our keys long after the projected date, but out of the blue. The delay meant we lost the man we booked to take care of the refurb at Broad Street, so we had to do it ourselves. We were fortunate that the new shop was in excellent shape, with major fittings that our basic DIY skillset could usefully adapt and repurpose. It also allowed us to put funds aside for expensive but high quality, functional wall and window display.

In addition to the lovely, airy ground floor the new place also has a basement with a very pleasant vibe. It’s large, open and bright with a high ceiling and a useful layout to the wider area which includes generous and well-designed storage facilities. We planned to expand into this space before Christmas 2021, but, as we’ve carted things up and down the stairs these past few months, we’ve come to realise that we have to plan very carefully what this will become. A back issue repository? Maybe. A separate bookstore? It’s possibly big enough. A crate-digging heaven for older, obscure magazines? Again, perhaps. Literally, watch this space.

What is certain is that despite all the hard work and being an experience we would not wish on anyone, this move has been the most energising of them all. The new place feels bright and full of promise, but I think it’s because this was progress. We shifted from a small store of 300 square feet to a space of around 800 square feet to sell an analogue product at the time when virtually all work and leisure was, through necessity, being channelled through screens.

So, this is a positive news story, and something to celebrate during a time of gloom and doubt. As we always say at Magalleria, print is not dead. It marches on.