The curated experience
March 24, 2015
Richard for 2011

Anna Low: keeping alive the literary tradition of Potts Point

Sara Tomevska speaks to Anna Low, the Potts Point Bookshop's creative proprietor ... Meeting the challenges of book retailing in today's market ... Authors Up the Cross - bringing lively discussions to the local community 

Anna Low has been in the business of selling books for 20 years.

After completing an Arts degree at Sydney University, Anna went to work in advertising for five years before discovering it wasn't for her. She packed her bags and moved to New York to study publishing at NYU.

"One of my teachers had a bookshop and I went and did some work experience there and that was it. I was hooked." 

The Potts Point Bookshop bookshop has been under Anna's management for the last seven years. Before that it was part of Lesley McKay's book retail empire, where Anna worked for 13 years. 

The shop at 14 Macleay St is dotted with Anna's personal touches - the selection of flowers, the herb garden in pots out the front and the arrangement of books and gifts. 

It straddles the nostalgic and the new.

The herb garden

The shelves are groaning with biography, history, politics, art, photography, cooking, design, lifestyle and a great range of children's books.

Yet, the Potts Point Bookshop doesn't just sell books, it provides its customers with "experiences". Anna explains: 

"We have a Story Time every Friday morning. And Fairy Poppilina runs a story school for pre-schoolers on Tuesday mornings  with a curriculum that covers everything from bears to transport." 

As long as it's a fairy and not a life-size reincarnation of the fictional monster the Gruffalo, which sent one boy home in tears, Story Time is extremely popular.  

The bookshop is also involved in the community in other ways,  including a recent partnership with Kings Cross Library for author-interview sessions called Authors Up the Cross

"We try to keep it quite local, we recently hired the Hayes Theatre and had the event with Bob Brown there - interviewed by Nell Schofield. It was great, it completely sold out." 

The energy and engagement has ensured that this oasis of bookish delight has flourished at a time when the book business has undergone enormous readjustment.

Indeed, the much loved Macleay Bookshop, which had been open since the 1950s, closed down last year and, in a sign of the times, the space turned into a real estate agency. Anna Low told Postcode2011

"Since they closed, I would say we have definitely had more business. Some people used to say they would buy books from both of us, and we were kind of complementary because we didn't have exactly the same stock. 

Book retailing has really been through a tough time in the past five years ... We work quite hard, and he business is profitable and successful, and has been since the beginning." 

Potts Point Bookshop has managed to maintain its customer base despite the shift to online book buying and ebooks.

"We have found people moving to digital reading but then coming back saying, 'I just want to hold a book again'."

She attributes this to the fact that her customers genuinely value books in their lives, and that her bookshop reflects her own "lifelong passion" for books. 

"From making the shop look beautiful, to making people feel welcome, to offering really good customer service ... it's really a curated experience. 

We do delivery, too. There are a few people who live in the neighbourhood who can't come to the store, so I go to them." 

Gruffalo: a bit overwhelming for some tots

The bookshop staff are all dedicated readers with very different passions from literary fiction to biography and science fiction. Between them, they have well over 50 years reading experience. Naomi and Megan run a twice monthly bookclub and Tim tends to the veggies and herbs out the front.

"Late last year we had Annabel Crabb talking about her book The Wife Drought at the Institute of Architects auditorium. We had a full house and lots of lively discussion about the working lives of women and men."

The Authors up the Cross series continues this year. There has been Frank Moorhouse in conversation with Matthew Lamb about his book Australia under Surveillance, in which he casts his eye over the organisation that has been watching him since he was 17.

Last month, David Malouf talked with with Miriam Cosic about his third volume of writings, Being There, which focuses on words, music, art and performance.

Last Christmas was very busy, with a really wonderful selection of books from which people could choose. The best sellers were Richard Flanagan's Narrow Road to the Deep North, Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More, Nora Webster by Colm Toibin and Robert Dessaix's deeply personal reflections in What Days are For. For children the best sellers were a beautiful book of illustrated maps and Oi Frog a deliciously funny rhyming story for the young.

March saw the release of the new Kazuo Ishiguro novel The Buried Giant, and new novels from Kate Atkinson, Steve Toltz and Andrew O'Hagan. So many books, so little time to read. 

To get in touch with the Potts Point Bookshop and learn more about events, you can find them on FacebookTwitter or visit their website.

Article originally appeared on Local news from postcode 2011 (http://postcode2011.com.au/).
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