Journalist and former politician Deborah Coddington in The Martinborough Bookshop, which she opened in May 2019. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

‘Children’s books are fantastic – so beautifully put together’

Hayley Gastmeier

From the hustle and bustle of life as a politician and journalist to a world of vineyards and books.

Deborah Coddington is in her element, surrounded by printed works of all colours and sizes about topics ranging from Patti Smith and house plants, to horses and the ‘poverty streets’ of old London.

Deborah and I meet in her bookstore in Martinborough on a Saturday morning just before opening time.

She puts a fresh welcome message in chalk on the blackboard in the alleyway and switches on the lights.

It’s only a matter of moments before the first person walks through the door.

Deborah politely puts our conversation on hold to ask the potential shopper whether they would like any help.

The former Act MP and award-winning feature writer opened The Martinborough Bookshop in May this year.

She tells me that six months later she is now getting the hang of running the store and business is going well.

The shop has been set up in the space vacated by Martinborough Library that was the former Campbell’s Garage, of which a vintage photograph hangs on the wall.

Deborah has kept the building interior true to its history with “an industrial feel”.

Books are displayed on industrial-style shelving made by a local engineer and the old car repair pit remains, now covered in a plank.

She made a cake and exchanged it with Martinborough Transport for some 44-gallon drums, which are propping up large kauri doors that are now a bench for hundreds of books.

As more book orders come into the store for display, more furniture at Deborah’s house on Te Muna Rd disappears.

Large rugs on indefinite loan from a customer bring comfort and warmth to the shop, which is purposefully kept spacious, so book browsers don’t feel “crowded” and can “browse in peace”.

Cookbooks are popular and so is “good” fiction, which is “not too light and nothing too pretentious”.

“My motto is ‘books you’ll want to keep’.”

But Deborah’s current genre of choice is books for littlies.

“Children’s books are fantastic – they are so beautifully put together.”

As we flick through Dear Princess Meghan and Dear Donald Trump (by Sophie Siers), she says it’s not easy to write a children’s book which nearly always feature exquisite illustrations.

The store is “dog friendly” and Deborah smiles as she recalls a blind man and his golden Labrador siting together for some time on one of rugs.

“It was really sweet.”

Opening a bookshop hadn’t been on the cards for long before Deborah took the plunge.

She discussed her idea with Masterton’s David Hedley, who gave her “valuable” advice, and her brother gave her a lesson on stock management.

The toughest part of the job was learning the software needed for making sales and stock ordering and getting to grips with using Eftpos.

The best part of the job, she says, is recommending books.

It’s clear Deborah loves books as she picks up her favourites to show me as we float around the bookshop.

She has all the book covers facing the browser and will be “quite honest with her good customers” when it comes to giving them her two cents about them.

Deborah, 66, said living on a vineyard in the country suited her as it meant fewer social functions and more animals.

She compiled The 1996 Paedophile and Sex Offender Index and has written, edited, and published numerous other books.

So, becoming a bookshop owner was a “natural” next step.

The Martinborough Bookshop is open seven days a week, 10am-4pm. The old garage site also houses the Martinborough Wine Merchants and The Village Cafe.