Love Books, Melville's much-loved indie bookstore turns 10

Kate Rogan chats all things Love Books - which is celebrating its 10th birthday on Thursday, June 20!

18 June 2019 - 11:33 By Mila de Villiers

On Thursday, June 20, everyone's favourite independent book store in Melville will be celebrating a decade of delighting Johannesburg bibliophiles!

Yes, Love Books recently turned 10. To commemorate this noteworthy occasion, Kate Rogan, co-founder of the store, gave us a low-down on all things Love Books...

Love Books: a biography

We opened on June 8 2009, in the same space, with the same feel, with what I thought was lots of beautiful, carefully chosen books - until Sean de Waal (now a beloved customer) called it "sparse" in our first review. Devastating!

I got over that quickly and looking back, he was of course right. But I had to start somewhere on a limited budget.

June 8 was preceded by a hectic few months of meeting publishers (all of them eyeing me with cynical looks), agreeing on discounts, and taking deliveries at home (my dining room looked like a warehouse). We set up our stock system in the dining room too - it was chaos. I had a six year old, a four year old and a job at 702!

The first book we sold (to a friend, the day before we opened), was Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones. What a thrill! I could go into lots of boring detail, but we're really stayed pretty much the same for 10 years - I'm still here, Anna [Joubert] is still here, the branch in the ceiling with the ribbons on it is still here - just our stock has changed, our range has improved, we understand our customers better and our shelves are groaning!

The significance of the store à la Ms Rogan

To me personally, it has been extremely gratifying to build up the business, see it put itself firmly on the map, become a place for the local community of readers to=find quality and quirky titles, and also for the wider SA community of writers. I look forward to my work every day. And actually I can't really believe I did it..

As for the local literati? 

Hopefully, it is a place that writers feel they are supported - I am passionate about local writing and writers and work hard to support them. Our launches have become really important social events where writers and readers can connect, promote and spread the word about books. Our launches feel like they're part of the important and ongoing conversation we have in SA, and it feels great to be part of the national conversation.

On the value of indies

We have so much more freedom to stock selectively and carefully and I think that is so important. In indie stores you'll always find things that you never expect to find, things that surprise you and can even change the way you think. I think for local writers in particular, indie stores are critical for promoting their work to readers.

And I always come back to that thing of community - owning an indie is not simply owning a retail space and selling product, like baked beans - it's a community in itself, as well as being part of the life of the immediate community (in this case Melville, Parkview, etc). It's the most wonderful thing.

I think indies are important places to breed an appreciation and love of books - they can do this because they are small, involved, interested, and our case if I say so myself, beautiful.

Finally - a behind the scenes look at what it's really like to work in a book store...

Admin, admin and more admin - more than you would ever imagine!

See you at 53 Rustenburg Rd on the 20th (6 PM for 6:30 PM), Jol'burg! RSVP: kate@lovebooks.co.za 

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