Over the last few years, news about bookstores included in our Guide closing down has been much more frequent than incoming recommendations for new bookstores to be added. That is why visiting the Arkadia International Bookshop was something we were looking forward to very much during our recent trip to Helsinki. According to our online research, Arkadia was a lively international bookstore enjoying a great reputation and popularity among its customers. The only mystery which we couldn't crack was how come no one sent us a recommendation. So was there a catch? If so, then we missed it...
The owners of Arkadia managed to create a bookstore with a world of its own. From the moment you approach the corner building where it resides you know that this is a real BOOKSTORE. One of those places which makes you forget about time and the problems of the outside world immediately upon entering. The sunlit main room on the ground floor feels like the living room of your dreams. During our visit there were people browsing, talking, eating, drinking coffee, reading, and our son was playing with a dog... From there on, we descended into the underground chambers which are like an after dark secret bookish night club with endless shelves of books, cozy hideouts, a pool table and the amount of light decreasing as you move from one room to the next. The very last room is a secluded reading room with a monk-like atmosphere.
If it weren't for our son who's still more interested in chewing books than in reading them, we would surely have spent the entire afternoon at Arkadia. We were also lucky enough to meet and talk to the owners Ian and Liisa and even their cute daughter Erika and here's a brief interview shedding a little more light on their inspirational story.
How was the idea of the Arkadia International Bookshop born?
I thought I would sell all my books but no one wanted them (they were all foreign) and decided then to open my own bookshop.
Finding the right location at a reasonable rate.
How would you describe the philosophy of Arkadia?
We are a fully independent bookshop that is heartily open to all.
Over the last few years, sad news about independent bookstores closing down has become much more common. What is your recipe for success?
We don’t have a recipe but we have adapted much. We hold numerous events (one or two almost every day) and have made our premises attractive enough for people to rent for private functions.
How important is your online presence (social media, website) when it comes to attracting new customers to the bookstore?
It’s important but our personal contact with visitors is much more so. FB and the website are used to remind people of our existence and to inform the same people of our events.
Do you have any dreams or goals for Arkadia in the future?
We dream a little of premises that would allow us to feed people for instance and also allow us to have an even greater variety of activities.
How do you envision the future of bookselling?
Bookselling will survive by adapting to circumstances, offering good service and sticking to quality!