The fall of corporate booksellers like Borders has allowed passionate independents to rise from the ashes, says the founder of a new bookshop soon to open in Nelson. After many years at the much-beloved Page & Blackmore, Stella Chrysostomou has set up Volume on Church St with co-owner Thomas Koed.rn
Chrysostomou left Page & Blackmore at the beginning of June this year. In the ensuing months, she’s been programme coordinator of Nelson’s Page & Blackmore Readers and Writers Festival, and was involved with NZ Bookshop Day for the Booksellers Association.
The experienced bookseller has wanted her own store for a while. The idea first surfaced three or four years ago, but the book trade was “quite crunchy” at the time. In the subsequent years, however, a number of smaller bookstores have opened up and Chrysostomou feels that the market is finally ready for her kind of store.
“You can do something that’s really personal and unique and it can work,” she says. “There’s been this revival of the idea of the independent bookshop as a place to go and have a community experience.”
Independent booksellers are “specialists, personal, particular, passionate” and offer service which chain stores can’t match, Chrysostomou says.
Her history with Page & Blackmore means that in a way, Chrysostomou has done it all before: “I’m fairly confident.”
Volume’s Church St site is perfect for what Chrysostomou is trying to achieve, although it does have space restrictions at just 43.5sqm. She says Church St is “a great wee street” with a bohemian feel to it and a neighbourly culture between the retailers located there.
Chrysostomou links the regeneration of independent bookstores to a wider consumer enthusiasm for independent retail. She says technology such as cloud accounting platforms has made it easier for small operations to do business effectively and efficiently, and a new wave of retailers are taking the opportunity to create exciting, community-oriented stores.
She looks forward to working with other small businesses in Nelson and becoming part of the Church St hub. Asked to list some local retailers from different fields that she admires, Chrysostomou is generous with her recommendations:
- Alton Street Cycles.
This independently-owned store is “fantastic”, says Chrysostomou. It sells bicycles, and offers coffee too, making it a destination store for all ages.
- Little Beehive Co-op.
This business was set up to help local artisans and crafters connect with shoppers. It emphasises handmade and DIY, and draws on the localism that Chrysostomou prizes.
Although the recent earthquakes have affected the delivery of Volume’s stock, Chrysostomou aims to open in the first week of December. Volume does not have a theme, but will sell “irresistible, gorgeous books that you just want to take home”. The digital store is currently open.