Half a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread and the latest Dylan Thomas please; It was selling books with baskets of groceries a century before supermarkets and became Wales' largest independent publisher. As Gomer Press celebrates its 120th birthday, Abbie Wightwick hears the story of a true family business.
It started as a few books sold in a rural grocery shop and survived two world wars and the e-revolution to become one of the biggest independent publishers in Wales.
Gomer Press, which this week celebrates its 120th birthday, has published some of Wales' greatest writers in English and Welsh, including early works by Dylan Thomas.
From the Welsh literature of the Middle Ages to modern icons such as Jan Morris and Idris Davies, Gomer also published work by the late Sir Kyffin Williams and award-winning children's author Malachy Doyle.
Not bad for a company founded by a young man who was forced to leave school at 14 but was determined to carry on with his studies through reading.
When David Lewis opened Market Stores grocery in Llandysul in 1876, he wanted his son JD to abandon the classroom to work behind the counter as soon as he could.
But young JD didn't like being a grocer, didn't want to leave school and began selling books in the Wynd Street shop as a sideline - beating today's supermarkets to the trick of flogging books with the weekly shop by a century.
"He didn't like being a grocer so he started selling books in the shop and got up at 5am every morning to read," explains JD's great grandson John Lewis, now honorary director of the company.
"We don't know what books he sold but he was a Baptist so they're likely to have been religious and Welsh language."
Whatever titles they were, the people of Llandysul bought enough of them to make the sideline a success.
By 1892 JD had enough money to buy a printing press and began printing pamphlets on the premises employing a 19-year-old printer from Anglesey to teach apprentices.
Within two years the business moved to larger premises and put out its first book in 1896, A History of the Parish of Llandysul by Unitarian minister WJ Davies.
More than 1,500 copies of the 352-page, Welsh language book were printed at a cost of PS53 to the minister, the family's records show.
By 1910 the printing was so successful a further extension was built but in 1914, disaster struck.
Not only did JD Lewis' three sons have to go to war but he also fell ill, dying of a strangulated hernia as a surgeon operated on him on his own kitchen table.
"The last thing he did was sign a cheque for PS25 for the surgeon's fees and the surgeon had the cheek to cash it," laughs John, who has written a history of the company which will be published to coincide with the anniversary this week.
After JD's death, John's grandmother and later his father Edward and two uncles ran the company, investing their way out of 1930s depression and even publishing a pamphlet of early Dylan Thomas poems for Caseg Press in 1941.
In 1946, Gomer became a publisher in its own right, rather than printing other publishers' material and in 1965 John reluctantly took over the business with his cousin Huw.
"I had no intention of taking it on," he admits. "I wanted to get away from village life, so I went to university and worked in London for a while."
But after marrying and having children, John wanted to return to Wales, teach his sons Welsh and help the family firm flourish.
For 30 years, he and Huw led the company; under their guidance its catalogue has grown to include adult and children's fiction, poetry and glossy coffee table books in English and Welsh.
Then in 1995, John passed the baton to his sons Jonathan, now chief executive, and Roderic, who is in charge of the finishing department.
As a 21st century business, Gomer is one of Wales' largest publishers with 53 staff, putting out more than 100 books a year which sell in print form and, of course, in digital formats.
Its titles have a distinctive Welsh identity with recent bestsellers including Grav In His Own Words, the autobiography of the much-missed rugby star Ray Gravell.
Authors on its adult list include Owen Martell and Islwyn Ffowc Elis and Gomer, now in large, purpose-built premises, also publishes Sali Mali's adventures for young readers.
Today, the company is investing through recession again, just as its forebears did in the 1930s.
"We recently bought a digital black and white printer for short runs, that's the future," says Jonathan.
"It's not print on demand but it makes it easier to top up print runs of books."
He admits bookseller giant Amazon has "made life hard" for independent publishers, but says the future is bright.
"It looks pretty good for us. We are not just a publisher or printer, we are both and we also do binding. We do online sales and are launching our new website before Christmas.
"I don't think about it being a family business, I'm running a business but it's nice to have that history."
"He didn't like being a grocer so he started selling books in the shop and got up at 5am every morning to read
JD Lewis, founder of the company The Lewis family's grocer''s shop in Llandysul which eventually became Gomer Press
MD Jonathan Lewis, his brother Roderic and John Lewis, honorary director
Press founders in 1896