Cinnober Bookshop Copenhagen
It was 9.5 years ago when Ulla Welinder, a graphic designer at that time, started Cinnober, a stationery and books shop in Copenhagen. Books are meticulously selected among international, visually inspiring editions on graphic design, illustration, architecture, street art, fashion and industrial design. Good vibes are noticeable immediately as you take your stairs down to the basement – you are met by raw white walls, as if you were on Santorini island, Leonard Cohen's calming voice in the background and the owner herself on the counter greeting you. We explored how Ulla Welinder built this sanctuary, how she finds time for excellent mailings and where the business is moving next.
Pick a central space
The shop started 9.5 years ago from this space in the old city center near Trinitatis Church with its grand circular tower. "We have for several years been considering opening a specialized paper shop, but have felt that Copenhagen might be too small for such a shop. Many considerations and even more turnabouts have led us to reconsider, and now we have opened our own version, a paper-and-book-shop." – says Welinder.
The first clients came right from the street windows. Welinder noticed that sometimes people like to come there because they needed to feel calmness in the noisy day-life. Here's what she said about the creation of such a place:
Tell them you've arrived
Right after Cinnober opened its doors Welinder sent out "a little letter for the press" that she was opening, with books, design and art. The letter headed to local Danish magazines and newspapers. Luckily one of them, a very good one, responded and did make an article about a shop.
Now some magazines come and ask some books for photo-shootings in Christmas issues. They are welcome. That's very good but unfortunately you cannot arrange that happening when you want. You just have to be there. For the people who open bookshops now it is just good to know that there are magazines that might be looking for your books to use. You can have a good cooperation.
Develop a deep expertise
There are some bookshops in Copenhagen of course. But they do mainly art and coffee-table books. Cinnober is a very carefully selected collection of design and architecture. Every book passes through Welinder's hands: she says that the book has to bring right feelings to her personally – that way it goes to the collection.
She travels a lot. To book-fairs biannually: in Frankfurt and in London. She visits London book-fair more often because it's much more fun that Frankfurt. She also travels to Stockholm, Paris and try to see local things that are not in established book-houses.
Regular updates and events
Back at home Cinnober hosts exhibitions of artists and publishers if they are produced in Denmark. Last year there were six events, now there'll be the third one this year. When people come in and tell Welinder an idea, that's how events happen. Next week, for example, there will be an exhibition of a photographer. And a publisher has made a book with his pictures and it will be released at the same time. So there'll be a reception.
How to make events not suck like in large commercial bookshops? Welinder's advice is:
A great newsletter
Cinnober has a monthly newsletter. And the clients are quite satisfied with that. Welinder writes in a very personal way about the books, make personal reviews. They always have a theme. The October, for example, was about the impermanence of life and autumn changes. November was about returning home, having a dinner and a cosy place. Welinder uses a few days overtime to write this. Also people get invitations to the events that way. She has been doing this almost from the beginning – for the 9 years now. There's now 2500 people in a mailing list.
How do people get in your newsletter? They can get inside writing in a notepad on the cashier desk.
Go meet the world
Cinnober went to some design fairs in the beginning. "For five years. It was a huge work and really expensive. But it has been a really nice experience as well. Because you get really out. It can be five-ten thousands Euros easily. But it was really nice to experience the people outside the shop. And you also have to make sure you can pass so many books through your desk." – Ulla Welinder.
Cinnober used to have a web-shop that sold books and paper to Danish customers. But so many tourists has been asking if they can get it back home. So Welinder has invested in a totally new web-shop last summer that can expand Europe wide. She plans to expand the business without going out of her shop: "I like the pace and that I have time with customers."