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Today's quote:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tea in the Library


A bookseller wins ten million dollars in the lottery. His ecstatic friends ask him what he plans to do with the money. With a huge smile on his face, he answers: "I'll keep selling books until the money runs out!"

I think Annette Freeman, the author of this charming little book, could relate to this joke which became reality to her less than eighteen months after she had opened her bookshop "Tea in the Library" in Sydney's York Street opposite the Queen Victoria Building.

"Tea in the Library" opened in November 2003 and closed in March 2005, with debts of $260,000 on the initial fitout. The shop lease had another eighteen months to run but she found new lessees who took over the lease at a lower rent, with her paying the difference for the remaining term of the lease in a lump sum direct to the landlord.

And she considered herself lucky as otherwise she would have been stuck with a $10,000-a-month outlay for an empty shop, plus the obligation to "make good" the premises at the end of the lease, i.e. rip out all the fittings and return the premises to its pre-bookshop state.

In the end, the new lessees paid her less than 10% of the original cost for the entire bookshop fitout, including all those expensive shelves, carpeting, lighting, office fitout, a five-computer network, safe, filing cabinets, front counter, audio, alarm and security system.

Although "Tea in the Library" was never so much about sales targets as it was about making a significant contribution to Sydney’s intellectual landscape - read more about it here - it's still a cautionary but also heart-warming tale for all wannabe booksellers, including yours truly who has for years dreamt of sitting comfortably in an upholstered armchair by a cash register, reading his favourite book, and occasionally ringing up a profitable sale.

P.S. Annette Freeman also blogs about writing at sendchampagne.wordpress.com and about travel at laviebohemetravel.wordpress.com.