THE new owner of New Edition bookshop says he hasn’t bought the Freo institution as a charity case.
“Book sales for independent bookshops have gone up in the past couple of years,” says Alan Sheardown, whose purchase of the 30-year-old business was finalised last Friday.
Following Fremantle council’s intervention in New Edition’s almost-demise, the store will move down the road into a council-owned building at the corner of High and Henry Streets.
Its last trading day at its current location is Saturday March 15.
It will take over the ground floor from Armstrong Parkin Architects, which will move upstairs and double in size.
Mayor Brad Pettitt, who helped broker the purchase, was full of praise for the architects as losing street-front presence wasn’t part of their original expansion plans.
He says the council’s relationship with Mr Sheardown is strictly on a commercial basis at this stage but his description of a bookshop specialising in Fremantle authors being a “no-brainer” for the council’s new business activation grants—worth up to $10,000 for fit-outs and rent subsidies—should make Mr Sheardown smile.
“New Edition is an iconic Fremantle business, and when I knew that James was thinking about closing it, it was good to start a conversation with him over coffee about what the city could do,” Dr Pettitt says.
He was bombarded by emails and letters from local authors begging the council to intervene as rumours swirled about New Edition shutting for good.
Mr Sheardown says he’d been hearing the same rumours at his East Vic Park bookshop Crow Books.
Originally he’d wanted to buy the Northbridge branch of New Edition but owner James Calligaro took that off the market and will now rename it and work from there.
Mr Calligaro says he’s sad to be leaving Fremantle but could no longer wear the costs of running a bookstore in Fremantle, particularly one with a footprint as large as New Edition (his lease is for the building’s two storeys).
“This is probably one of the busiest shops in town. There are certain people that come in every day,” Mr Calligaro told the Herald. “And the website was just starting to work.”
Mr Sheardown says he has a strong historic connection to Fremantle, with his great-grandfather the chief superintendent of the prison, and his nanna lived in Henderson Street.
According to Scribe Publishing founder Henry Rosenbloom, independent booksellers are reaping the rewards from reduced competition caused by the collapse of corporate retailers Borders and Angus & Robertson and the high Australian dollar.
“There are even some signs that customers are rediscovering the special pleasures and benefits that only a physical bookshop can provide,” he blogged in 2012.
But he also warned that independents will struggle against ebooks in the near future and there are rumours online giant Amazon is going to set up an Australian arm, which could provide a knockout punch.
by STEVE GRANT