Readaway Books in its final chapter

Readaway Books will close its doors soon as owner Barbara Rosie gets ready to retire. Ms Rosie thanks her wonderful colleagues for helping keep the beloved book shop running for all these years. From left: Barbara Hickman, Barbara Rosie, Sue Barnes & Sara Downs

For decades Readaway Books on Picton Street has been the home away from home for Howick’s bookworms and bibliophiles.

Now, the literary hideaway, crammed full of colourful magazines, comics and novels, has reached its final chapter.

Soon the beloved bookstore, which has held an enduring presence on Picton Street for as long as most Howickians can remember, will close its doors for the last time, as owner Barbara Rosie settles into retirement.

“It just feels like the right time,” Ms Rosie says.

“As you get older you realise you never know what’s around the corner. I don’t want to regret not setting aside time to do all the other things I love.”

Ms Rosie joined the family business in 1985 to help out her aunt Margaret Clarke.

Clarke, who is remembered fondly by Readaway’s loyal customers, bought the store with her parents in 1957, determined to make it something special.

Operating as a lending library at the time, and soon after securing a much sought-after magazine agency, Readaway Books’ delightful customer service won the hearts of the community.

It was a natural progression for Barbara to move into the business, her love of books flourished over her 45 years in the book trade.

She spent nine years at the University of Auckland library, worked at James Thin Booksellers in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was a rep for Penguin Books for six years before joining the family business.

It was this experience that helped her transition Readaway into more of a book store, surviving troubling times where online book sellers and e-books were beginning to saturate the market.

Ms Rosie says she is definitely ending her career on a high note, and says she is excited to finally get more of her life back.

“I want to play badminton twice a week, I want to travel, I want to have coffee with friends, all the things you can’t do when you are working self-employed in a book shop six days a week.”

The hardest part, she says, has been breaking the news to Readaway’s customers.

“I haven’t yet been told I look old enough to retire,” she laughs.

“Many of our customers have grown up with Readaway Books. They will remember my Aunty Margaret and our lending library. Quite a few of them remember picking up their comic books from us as children.”

And as many of her customers have wondered, had Ms Rosie ever considered finding someone to take over the book store and continue the legacy as she had done all those years ago for her aunt?

“No I didn’t, and that was on purpose. When you try and pass on or sell an independent business that has been here 60 years, it never has the same personality, it wouldn’t be the same bookstore that everybody loves,” she says.

“I wanted people to have fond memories of what the store was, not how it used to be because somebody else has changed it.”