Back in April 1991, and in the face of a rather large overdraft, Mary Manley decided to open a secondhand bookshop - one that would be based on the swap system and called Barter Books. Her husband, Stuart, immediately took to the idea and suggested that Mary open the shop in the front room of what was then his small manufacturing plant, located in Alnwick's magnificent old Victorian railway station. From that time a joint partnership was formed that would eventually result in what the New Statesman magazine would call 'The British Library of secondhand bookshops'.
Stuart Manley was born in County Durham during the Second World War. His professional background always revolved around business. Within the bookshop, Stuart is basically responsible for the general business management, including the Barter Books website. Outside interests include cricket, railways, (English) football, and cash flows.
Mary Manley was born in Missouri even earlier (alas!) than Stuart. (But, please note, only slightly earlier.) Mary's professional background was almost exclusively academic. Within the bookshop, Mary is basically responsible for the general organisation, ambience, and marketing. Outside interests include almost everything but cricket, railways, (English) football, and cash flows.
Finally, Stuart and Mary Manley's partnership has been based on a very happy counterbalance of strengths and weaknesses. This, tied in with a very real enthusiasm for the business as a whole, has allowed them (at last) to pay off that overdraft.
About the staff: Our mainstay - hard-working, loyal, remarkable, wonderful, especially Keith 'the van'. And remarkably eclectic - perhaps like the shop, itself. There is a manager. But no 'boss'. We have hired temporary help as young as 16 and as old as 76. Politics range from Left of centre through to Right of centre and all points in between. And, so far, everyone seems to have survived. (Well, perhaps a bit of shouting here and there, but nothing serious.) Professional backgrounds, too, are equally wide-ranging - from those you might expect (artists, teachers) to those you might not (the RAF, coal mining). As for accents, well, currently, there's North of England, Irish, London, Cornwall, and, yes, American. We like this.