The Hard to Find Second Hand Bookshop has been a feature of the Onehunga landscape since 1988. And for as long Shalon Ewington has been a part of the furniture. Joe Dawson sat down with the bibliophile to get the word on the second-hand book trade.
Book lover Shalon Ewington began at the Hard to Find Second Hand Bookshop as a 16-year-old part-timer when it was still to be found - with some difficulty, hence the name - in what is now David Tua's boxing gym.
When it shifted to the main drag she went with it as a fulltime staffer and has remained with the business.
Entering the shop is like stepping into another world - one where all things bookish reign supreme.
Over two floors and 2000 square metres in the creaky old building, a huge and diverse range of books is crammed into shelves. Any free wall space is filled with posters and portraits of a literary persuasion.
Chairs where browsers can sit for a read dot the corners. It feels like the comfortable and slightly battered home of an eccentric relative.
Its uniqueness is one of the reasons Ms Ewington has stayed.
"I've always loved books," she says. "I didn't know there was a career in second-hand books. I started in August 1988 as a sweet-faced 16-year-old after school, tidying and looking after the shop. It doesn't feel like I've been here that long."
The day-to-day running of the shop is just one part of the job.
"Every day is different. You meet every walk of life from professors and academics to way-out wacky alternative lifestylers.
"I go out on the road book buying and it takes me to mansions and tiny little council flats. If you love books it's a great lifestyle."
She says her colleagues are another source of fun at work - "books attract good people".
As the publishing world continues through a massive period of transition brought about by recessions and technology changes Ms Ewington says the life of a second-hand book dealer is also in flux.
The days of hitting a motherload of rare and precious books have passed.
"I have definitely found some rare treasures, but the nature of being rare is just that - they are rare.
"Things are changing. When I started there were a lot more collections from people who were real bibliophiles but those are few and far between now. Collections have been broken up and sold off.
"The generation of book collectors is shrinking."
She says a first edition of medical tome Gray's Anatomy is one of her biggest finds. It was sold to a doctor in the United States.
But there is still a "phenomenal volume" of good quality, popular books flowing through the store and its online business, which is run from Dunedin by store founder Warwick Jordan.
Naturally Ms Ewington is an avid reader. "I love books, I love reading and I always have a stack of books that never diminishes. It's frustrating to know I'll never go through them all but nice to know I'll never run out either."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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