Who’s the best
IT’S official. Townsville has one of Australia’s best book shops and it has survived through thick and thin, rain and jackhammers.
The Mary Who? Bookshop, situated at the western end of the old Flinders mall, which is now being dug up to make way for a road, was presented with the Regional Bookshop of the Year award at the annual conference of i n d e p e n d e n t b o o k s t o r e group Leading Edge Books.
The group represents about 180 independent book stores throughout Australia.
Co-owners Sue Cole Kerry McIlroy proudly and dis- play the award in the store.
They also admit that times have been tough for retail businesses, for book shops and for businesses operating in Townsville’s city heart where trade has been disrupted by the $ 56 million Flinders St redevelopment and the closure of retail s p a c e , p a r t i c u l a r l y t h e L a n c i n i - Aus t e x x g r o u p ’ s Flinders Plaza holdings.
‘‘ We are fortunate to have such loyal customers,’’ Ms Cole said. ‘ ‘ People come specifically to us and negotiate around the obstacles.’’
Mary Who? Bookshop was recognised by its peers for promoting books in the community.
Ms Cole can be heard regularly on ABC Radio in the Tuesday Book Club program, while Ms McIlroy keeps clients and contacts in Towns- ville and further afield updated on events through the shop’s Facebook site and through Twitter messages.
To overcome the impact of Cyclone Yasi, including 10 days without power, they gained the support of publishers to offer a free book with every book sale.
‘‘ I think the publishers realised we had been through a rough time,’’ Ms McIlroy said. ‘‘ We ended up with 350 books to give away.’’
The shop also works with J a me s C o o k U n i v e r s i t y alumni, sourcing authors including David Suzuki, John Howard, Jeffrey Archer and Karl Kruszelnicki, to speak at events at the university.
Ms Cole said the recent opening of some of the Flinders Plaza properties, opposite their store, as shops for artists and community groups as part of the Renew Townsville initiative was helping create more activity.
However the closure of the shops three years ago and their disrepair and smell remained a concern, she said.
It had contributed to a drop in pedestrian traffic and monthly takings at the bookshop falling up to 25 per cent.
‘‘ Townsville is loyal to us and people come in but those who don’t know us and don’t come in, we miss them,’’ Ms Cole said.
Ms McIlroy said they concentrated on the business and made the most of what they had control over.
While it has been delayed, they are working with publishers on moves to sell onl i n e . T h e f i r s t e - b o o k s , through Mary Who? Bookshop, are expected to be available early next year.