You need a lot of books to open a bookshop. About 35,000. And you need a lot of gumption, hope, faith and nous. You need to be brave…Stereo Stories writer John Butler and his partner Marion this year opened Everybody Knows Books, a second-hand bookshop in Ballarat.
The pandemic hasn’t exactly helped but John and Marion are optimistic souls.
John came into the orbit of Stereo Stories via his long-time involvement with our partner site The Footy Almanac. He was a founding Almanac editor as well as a regular writer, contributing stories about Carlton Football Club, and cricket, in particular.
John’s handful of Stereo Stories have been about great songs – no middle-of-the-road tunes here: Cattle And Cane by The Go-Betweens, Hellhound On My Trail by Robert Johnson, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning by Richard Thompson, My Turn To Cry by Cold Chisel, and a tribute to to the late, formidable bluesman Chris Wilson:
A big man stalks the stage. He prowls. Shaved hair. Baggy t-shirt. Faded jeans. A denim jacket if he was feeling fancy. Clothes you can sweat in. This ain’t no fashion show. This is the blues. This is country. This is Chris Wilson music.
But what possessed John and Marion to start a business in the middle of a pandemic?
Circumstances just seemed to lead us down this path, explains John on The Footy Almanac site. My wife Marion and I had been selling books for The Book Grocer company for the last few years. We’d both been lifelong readers, but now we really had the bug. Covid-19 had wrecked that company’s previous business model, forcing them to reinvent themselves as an online business. When our store closed at Easter, Marion and I were out of work.
Given our age and disposition, options weren’t exactly falling out of trees. We both had a couple of near-job experiences, but ultimately no cigar. Thoughts turned to creating our own opportunities.
Once you really start looking, you can be surprised what turns up. Because we lacked capital, second-hand books were always going to be our best option. Chances to buy good stock soon presented. Then the right shop space turned up. Serendipitously, we found ourselves taking possession of Everybody Knows Books on July 1.
For the last 20 months we have all been living our lives as best we can around whatever lockdowns are happening. Ballarat has fared better in this regard than our Melbourne comrades, but life has still had many interruptions. Taking possession of the shop at the beginning of July, our first actual day of trading had to wait until the 28th. Since then, we have managed to trade just one month in three. We had planned for a rocky start, but no business model really allows for only trading every third day.
Still, we never expected to get rich selling books in the first place. No one really should. But we regret nothing. Each day has brought its own small adventures and entertainments. Book stores have always been some of our happiest places. Owning one is a delight. Hopefully we can persuade enough customers to think likewise. Brave or foolish? I suppose we’re about to find out.