How I Fell In Love with Bookshops

Saturday August 20 is National Bookshop Day. It is about celebrating bookshops all around Australia. In the spirit of the day I wanted to share how I fell in love with bookshops.

My bookshop growing up was Forest Bookshop in Forestville, a suburb in northern Sydney, which was owned and run by Mark Johnson. It was a cozy bookshop located at the Forestville Shopping Centre. What I distinctly remember about the shop was the children’s book area. It was situated in the back corner of the shop but it was its own little room with bookshelves surrounding you on all four walls. It was wonderful because it felt like I had my own little area of the shop to sit in and look at books while my Mum browsed the rest of the shop. I used to head directly for the Asterix book section and hunt for the next book I needed for my collection before moving on to Roald Dahl and seeing if there was a book that I hadn’t read yet. Forestville Shopping Centre was one of two local shopping centres and sadly we mainly shopped at the other one but we did still manage to visit the book shop at least once a fortnight. If we didn’t make it all together books were brought home regularly because my Mum definitely made a visit.

Forest Bookshop is the only bookshop I can distinctly remember visiting growing up. It was always my mum’s dream to one day open a bookshop and in 1995 that became a reality when she opened Pages & Pages Booksellers in Belrose. A school teacher for many years she finally decided to bite the bullet and pursue her dream. I was in Year 11 at the time. One of my subjects was Business Studies and we needed a case study. Having my parents setting up a new business was perfect and gave me an opportunity to witness what was happening as the shop was being set up. When the shop opened I quit my part-time job at Woolworths and started working in the bookshop on the weekends. After finishing school I took more hours and delivered a lot of the shop’s school orders.

I have always been a reader but it was not until I started working in the bookshop that I became a passionate reader. There were so many books now available either at my finger tips or at the press of a keystroke, on any subject I wanted. I also discovered the joy of discovering a new author or someone who hadn’t been heard of and being able to pass that on to the others. I was hooked. I dropped out of uni and began working full-time in the shop, learning more and more about the business. In 1999 my parents (my Dad had been sucked into the business too) bought Moscraft Bookshop in Mosman and Pages & Pages expanded to two shops. This gave me the unbelievable opportunity of running the Belrose store. I now learned all about inventory control, stock management, merchandising, marketing and whole lot of other aspects about the day-to-day running of a small business. I also met my wife!

In 2003 we decided to close the Belrose store. It was a very tough decision but it was also the right one. Pages & Pages is a family business and running two bookshops left us very thin on the ground. You could also argue that we were running three shops because at Mosman our Children’s Bookshop is separated from the street facing bookshop by an arcade. I love the fact that we have a separate Children’s bookshop (although it would be easier to staff one whole shop). I loved having my own area to browse in back at Forest Bookshop and we are able to give that same experience to children in our bookshop but on an even bigger scale. I love when children come in to our front shop dragging their Mum or Dad by the arm repeating over and over “My shop first, my shop first”. I know that there will definitely be a next generation who love having a local, physical, bookshop.

I’d love to hear about your first bookshop, why you loved it and your memories of it.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or at the National Bookshop Day Facebook page or on Twitter this week using the hashtag #NatBookshopDay

And don’t forget to visit your local bookshop on Saturday!

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