Monthly Archives: March 2009

One Year On: Bristol, Cardiff and Carlisle

Phil Groom writes:

Today, March 27th 2009, marks exactly one year on from the day Dave Walker posted about the closure of the former SPCK bookshops in Bristol, Cardiff and Carlisle, courtesy of J Mark Brewer. I hear the sound of one hand clapping: J Mark Brewer, we applaud you; but we’ll leave it to your brother Phil to affirm you.

Of those three shops, only Cardiff has been saved, and that no thanks to Mr Brewer.

Dave’s full post reposted below, retrieved from ‘Cease and Desist‘:

Bristol, Cardiff and Carlisle SSG / SPCK shops to close
Several people have posted in the comment thread below about the closure of the Bristol and Cardiff SSG (former SPCK) bookshops.

This from Richard:

SPCK Bristol has closed for good. I walked past the shop this lunch time, went up to the door to read the sign and saw Mr Phil Brewer peering out at me. He waved heartily, I waved heartily and then I moved on. Rapidly. No point in having a conversation. Nothing really to say. Well, not that would be constructive. The shop was being packed up and that’s an end to it all in Bristol.

The keys were left with Wesley Owen over the weekend and when Mr Brewer went to pick them up I gather he mentioned that there was no intention to open up in Bristol again. That may or may not be true.

What a sad end to nearly 200 years of Christian bookselling by SPCK in Bristol.

I am told that the Cardiff shop is to close on Monday. Cardiff was the only SSG shop in Wales.

Update (Thursday 27th 9.30am) : The forthcoming closure of the Carlisle shop on Monday the 31st March has also been confirmed.

Update (Monday 31st) : News and Star: Cathedral bookshop to close

Brewer Enterprises: Affirm Yourself

Phil Groom writes:

Just repeat it to yourself often enough and you’ll be fine. Who knows, you might even convince the neighbours

Brewer Enterprises - How the West Was Won

Screenshot, 26th March 2009 - Brewer Enterprises - How the West Was Won

Competition time: what is a CAM? Best suggestion is a winner! Which you are, of course…


Amazon Seller Connection Discussion: Church bookshop with bad management

Phil Groom writes:

Have just discovered a rather interesting discussion on Amazon’s Seller Connection discussion boards: Church bookshop with bad management.

Do the world a favour: head on over there and join in!

Anger in Durham as Dean Snubs Petitioners’ Concerns

Phil Groom writes:

Dean of DurhamPetitioners calling for the Brewers’ business relationship with Durham Cathedral to be terminated have responded angrily to an announcement in last Sunday’s Cathedral Newsletter that the Dean’s new book — somewhat ironically, published by SPCK — is to be officially launched from the Cathedral Shop.

One petitioner has bluntly described the Dean’s decision to host his book launch in the Brewers’ shop as verging on “a deliberate two fingers against those who’ve signed the petition”, whilst another, leaving a message on the petition itself, states equally bluntly, “The fact that this petition still exists displays a singular disrespect for those who have signed it.”

I will trust in you, by Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham

I will trust in you, by the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham

The book, entitled I Will Trust In You: Companion to the Evening Psalms, ISBN 9780281059874, is priced at £9.99 but can be pre-ordered from Amazon for only £6.59, a 34% discount.

In November 2008 the Dean responded to a concerned petitioner by issuing a strong statement distancing the Cathedral authorities from the shop, noting that “the Cathedral Chaper does not manage the shop in its Great Kichen.” [sic] and emphasising that the shop “is NOT managed, is NOT controlled and is NOT run by the Cathedral itself.”

The book’s title, however, seems to beg the question: can the Dean be trusted to maintain that distance? If you share the concerns raised here and by the petitioners, please consider writing to the Dean personally to ask him that question and encourage him to seek an alternative venue: contact details may be found on the Cathedral Who’s Who page.

The date of the proposed launch is uncertain, given in the newsletter as March 31st whilst shop staff have reportedly been told that the event is scheduled for April 7th, during Holy Week. As this report goes live there is no mention of the book launch on the Cathedral website NewsNotices or Services & Events pages.

The petition, calling upon the Dean to take urgent and decisive action to free the Cathedral Shop from the Brewers’ control, was launched in August 2008. It now carries more than 360 signatures and remains open until its objective has been reached. If you have not already signed it, please consider doing so and please spread the word.

Letter from a Decorator

Phil Groom writes:

Received the message below over the weekend via a comment left on My Story. I have no way of verifying Nigel’s story, of course, but to my mind it has the ring of truth about it:

Dear Sir
My name is Mr Nigle Blakemore and i am writing because i did some decorating on the 27th of january 2009 to the 30th of january 2009 it has been a month now since i have not received my cheque.

the decorating i had done for , ENC SHOP MANAGMENT COMPANY SP1 2PE salisbury ST Johns Street.
was finished on the 30th of January, i gave the shop assisent whos name is Val an invoice on the 5th of February 2009 , she has told me that she sent the invoice off to you in Bradford because you were the main ofice but she would not give me your phone number so that i could get in touch with you on this matter. plaese could you help me sort this matter out .

many thanks
yours sincerely

Mr Nigel Blakemore

I’ve replied as below, but if anyone else has any advice or suggestions for Nigel, please leave them in the comments on this post — and if anyone from Salisbury reads this, please invite your local media to get in touch to help raise awareness of this latest Brewer outrage.

As I’ve suggested with Worcester, I think the most appropriate response is a complete boycott of the shop. If we can get the local media on the case and gain the support of Salisbury’s churches, hopefully the Brewers will get the message that their ways of doing business and dealing with people are not acceptable.

Thanks for copying us in on your message, Nigel — presumably you’ve sent this to the Bradford shop? If not, you’ll find their contact details on their website here, Third Space Books – Bradford, but it might be worth contacting J Mark Brewer directly via his office in Texas: Brewer & Pritchard – Contact Us.

Sadly, you are but one of many victims of J Mark and Philip W Brewer’s tendency not to pay those who work for them and I’m sorry to learn that you’ve had to find out about that the hard way.

I suspect that the only way anyone can be sure of being paid by these guys is to insist on full payment in advance; or in your case, having already done the work, to seek legal advice: your local Citizens Advice Bureau might be a good place to start. It might also be worth contacting your local paper: sometimes public embarrassment seems to work. Would the Salisbury Journal be interested in your story?

Welcome to Worcester?

Phil Groom writes:

Worcester Christian Bookshop?

Worcester Christian Bookshop?

Or not, as the case may be.

Have just come back from a couple of days in Worcester, enjoying the gracious hospitality of its rather magnificent Cathedral. Naturally I couldn’t pass through without stopping by at the former SPCK bookshop, now attempting to reinvent itself as “Worcester Christian Bookshop”. You have to dig ye Olde Englishe typeface, I guess.

The shop was closed the first couple of times I passed by but it opened eventually and I wandered in.

Two gentlemen seemed to be having a rather intense conversation at the back of the shop: “We’re going to…” was all I caught before they turned and glared at me like an unwelcome guest.

I hastened away, but not before I noticed a computer monitor on the counter displaying the ‘Third Space Books’ website… resisted the temptation to surf to this site and leave it displaying our front page.

Looking around before I left, the shelves were surprisingly full, thanks to a lot of books being displayed face-out rather than spine-on; and upstairs, lots of ancient looking tomes and an old man in an armchair. I wondered if he was staying B&B.

Knowing St Stephen the Great’s record of unpaid suppliers, I wondered who all the stock belonged to. Decided not to make a purchase for fear of being caught handling stolen goods, and didn’t want to support the Brewers’ misbegotten empire anyway.

Former SPCK Bookshop, Worcester, March 13, 2009

Former SPCK Bookshop, Worcester, March 13, 2009

From the outside, all sign of the previous ownership had been removed: just a faint outline in the paintwork from the old signwriting, “The Pilgrim Shop.”

The window displays were sparse — deliberately so for Lent, perhaps? — a little stack of Easter themed books along with a key fob bearing an SPCK price label, betraying the previous ownership with its adhesive kiss. I looked around for 30 silver coins but I guess they’d been used for something else…

SPCK Price label in use in Worcester window display, March 13, 2009

SPCK price label in use in Worcester window display, March 13, 2009

I made my way back to the Cathedral. Chatting with the staff there — all very friendly and welcoming — it took only the bare mention of the fact that I was a theological bookseller to spark expressions of outrage and indignation at the treatment meted out to the former SPCK staff, the tragedy of Steve Jeynes’ suicide and the travesty that the bookshop he once managed so well has become.

J Mark Brewer’s threats against Dave Walker may have erased many of the tributes to Steve from the online record but those who knew Steve clearly remember him with admiration and respect; and Steve Jeynes, RIP is still one of this site’s most visited pages.

Adjacent to the Grade II church of Saint Stephen the Great…

Phil Groom writes:

Is the whole SSG enterprise now set to become one big network of B&Bs run from Bountiful? Locations at Poole, Lincoln and Truro, apparently. With a name change to make it a tad more Brit friendly, naturally; and the coincidence of locations could, of course, be nothing more than that…

Google Search: Cloister of St George | Cloister of St George

Let’s hope someone’s consulted the rest of the neighbours…
Cloister of St George at Poole (Screenshot, 11/3/2009)

Cloister of St George at Poole (Screenshot, 11/3/2009)

“Many of these accounts are retirement accounts on which people depend.” – J Mark Brewer, email to Adam Shapiro, Fox News

Phil Groom writes:

On Thursday March 5th 2009 the Honorable David C Godbey, US District Judge in Dallas, passed an order (Scribd | PDF) that Stanford accounts with a balance below $250,000 not linked to suspected fraud should be released. Fox News have reported the story, citing an email from J Mark Brewer as follows:

J. Mark Brewer, the Houston attorney who filed suit against the SEC in this matter, was pleased with this latest development; however he believes the SEC is still overstepping its boundaries.

“I firmly believe that these individuals’ accounts should never have been frozen in the first place and many people have suffered huge damages as a result of this unprecedented, over-reaching action by the SEC,” Brewer said in an email to FOX Business correspondent Adam Shapiro. “The $250,000 threshold requested by the SEC and approved by the attached order is an unfair and arbitrary number, especially considering that many of these accounts are retirement accounts on which people depend.”

I’ve left the following comment on the story:

This is good news for all affected! One can only hope that J Mark Brewer is equally concerned about the welfare of his former bookshop employees here in the UK whose wages he has frozen and whose pension contributions have gone AWOL – retirement money that they too are depending on. Perhaps someone from Fox News would like to ask Mr Brewer some searching questions about his rather innovative UK business practices? Visit SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info to find out more: Thank you.

If you’d like to add a comment you’ll need to take a moment to register with Fox News, but it’s quite painless and allows you to use a pseudonym for your screen name. Email confirmation required to activate.

Shop Watch Alert

Phil Groom writes:

If you live or work near any of the still-trading former SPCK/SSG Bookshops, please keep your eyes peeled today. I have a sneaking suspicion something’s afoot…

With apologies to Ray Parker Jr:

If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighbourhood,
who ya gonna call?
If it’s somethin’ weird an’ it won’t look good,
who ya gonna call?

Hogwash: Asingleblog Interviews Mark Brewer

Deep Joy at the Brewery

Deep Joy at the Brewery

Phil Groom writes:

Don’t miss this one, dear people: ASB’s best yet: Interview with a Vamp…sorry Brewer