Downtown London - News

November 2018

  • Brown & Dickson builds a low-tech, every day success formula

    November 28, 2018

    Brown & Dickson builds a low-tech, every day success formula


    By Sean Meyer


    In a world seemingly obsessed with the next technological toy, Vanessa Brown and Jason Dickson are only too happy to provide Londoners with a decidedly low-tech alternative — rare books.


    Between the two of them, Vanessa and Jason have some 40 years of experience in the world of rare books, not to mention they’re both published writers. Given their background, it shouldn’t surprise anyone they are passionate supporters of the written word.


    And if anyone wants to argue the printed book is on its way out, well they have first-hand experience in knowing that just isn’t the case.


    “I’m very pleased to say the conventional wisdom that books are dying is entirely wrong. A great deal of our customer base – I wouldn’t say most of it, but a great deal of it — are young people,” Jason said. “They see it as the low-fi alternative to their high-fi life. We experience that here too. In fact, I would say the more the world goes digital, the more high-tech our lives become, the more books will be valued.”


    The passion for rare books is certainly shared by Vanessa and Jason and their customers at Brown & Dickson Booksellers (609 Richmond St.).


    Vanessa and Jason originally started their business from their home before moving into the incubator at coworking space 121 Studios. 


    When they decided to have a full-fledged spot, they knew it had to be on Richmond Row.


    After all, as Vanessa explains, they knew they wanted the shop to be “small, curated, experiential,” the sort of place where lovers of rare used books could find that one book they had been long hoping to find.


    Although the couple have put in their share of long hours establishing Brown & Dickson, the shop certainly isn’t just a business to them.


    Both Vanessa and Jason have been involved with the arts community in London for decades. As a result, the arts community — and the larger cultural community that surrounds it — have become a big part of their social life. 


    Jason jokes, “It may sound dorky,” but he and Vanessa actually socialize at the store, either through interacting with customers as they do every day or hosting public events. As they open their doors to the community, Jason adds — with considerable pride — the bookstore becomes almost a community hub.


    When they aren’t at the shop, Jason said they are just as likely to be home playing Red Dead Redemption and watching Netflix.


    And while shutting off and getting away are important, Vanessa is quick to add they can just as easily do that from their second home — the store.


    “People comment on the homey feeling of our space. Because we own our own business, we can make the space comfortable for ourselves,” she said. “When you’re working in a business that thrives on eccentricity, you can do things like have three caged birds and bring in a plant your mom gave you. We’ve made it a space we feel at home in.”


     The best part about their situation, Vanessa said, is that she and Jason live in a world where what captures the imagination, “is the unique, the genuine, the personal.”


    That, she adds, is what makes any business stand out, but it is also what makes people happier in general.


    “The more you are who you are, the more successful you’ll be,” Vanessa said. “We have made our store a place where we feel comfortable and happy and we don’t have to be fakers. We can just be ourselves.”


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