17 September 2021

Like a good novel, The Yass Book Store is off to a challenging start

| Sally Hopman
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Exterior of The Yass Book Store

Joanna Hicks couldn’t find an empty shop in the main street of Yass to open her book shop so she settled for a little further up the road at her family’s former B&B. Photo: Sally Hopman.

Joanna Hicks’s dream of opening her own shop in Yass has all the ingredients of a great novel.The long wait for a shop in the town’s main street to become vacant (it never did).

The first COVID-19 lockdown. Then the second one on 13 September.

But she wasn’t to be put off. After all, aren’t bookshops full of drama?

Last weekend, Joanna finally opened The Yass Book Store for business. She had done a trial pop-up shop in August, but that mainly attracted family and friends so she was looking forward to welcoming in the wider world.

Business was good at the weekend. People dropped in and it was a great start. But come midnight on Monday, the town was locked down again.

READ ALSO Online shopping is helping Yass Valley community survive lockdown

Joanna has had to wait some time for this dream to open a bookshop to come true. This isn’t just any old dream. The former public servant and trained librarian wanted to give Yass something it hadn’t had for about 10 years: its own bookshop.

A place where people could meet, talk, where they could hear about the latest publications, and meet authors and other creative souls. It was also never going to be just another book shop when it opened in the family’s former home, a former B&B called Minnie’s.

“I kept waiting for a shop to become vacant in the main street, but that didn’t happen,” says Joanna.

So she opted to open the shop in the former B&B, still in the main street just a little further up the road towards the highway.

The small, traditional cottage is now The Yass Book Store, and it looks exactly what it is – the home of a book lover with books, stationery, prints and other pieces occupying most tables and chairs inside. There are recipe books in the kitchen, good hefty novels in the bedroom, and walls of books in the lounge room with cards and pictures adorning the mantlepiece and most other flat surfaces.

Books in kitchen at The Yass Book Store

Where else would you keep recipe books but in the kitchen? Photo: Sally Hopman.

Joanna has created a unique oasis in the former B&B, with each room decorated as a warm, country cottage, but all featuring books, prints, paper and cards just about everywhere.

Having books around her has always been part of Joanna’s life.

“That’s what I wanted to create here,” she says. “Things such as Kindles are good if you’re travelling, but I think there are a lot of people like me who just love to have the physical book around them – books you love so much you want to read them again and again.

“A book with a good story and good characters stays with you long after you’ve finished it.

“I really think the concept will work in a place such as Yass because there are so many creative people who live here. It’s a wonderful niche area and I would love to show off what people are writing and making here.”

Joanna Hicks tidying bookshelf at The Yass Book Store

Joanna Hicks adds the finishing touches to the bookshelves in what was the lounge room of her family’s former B&B and is now The Yass Book Store. Photo: Sally Hopman.

This passion for reading and books didn’t just appear overnight – it has been with Joanna for as long as she can remember.

“I remember dad reading Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit when I was only eight or nine,” she says. “I loved it. We even ended up calling our guinea pigs after some of the characters.”

Opening The Yass Book Store is just the first part of the story for Joanna. She has already stocked books by local authors, but is keen to expand that to include crafts, prints and stationary by local artists. She is also keen to host book readings and launches, and help promote skills associated with age-old crafts such as book binding.

That is, of course, COVID-19 willing. In the meantime, during lockdown, Joanna has to settle for her new website and online shoppers.

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