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Books now first for ex-MP

Deborah Coddington at The Martinborough Bookshop. PHOTO/PAM GRAHAM

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Former ACT MP Deborah Coddington has started a small business at the age of 66 in a dying industry in a small town.

Madness? Not really. The Martinborough Bookshop has been trading well since opening on May 11 and when Coddington talks about how she went about setting up the business, and where she is positioning it, it all makes sense.

Her money in a bank on a term deposit was only earning about 3 per cent so why not try to do something with the money, she thought.

She had a talk to David Hedley of Hedley’s Bookshop, which has been owned and run by the Hedley family in Masterton since 1907.

His advice was don’t over-think the situation and be yourself. And don’t try to be all things to all people.

The second thing she did was join the New Zealand Booksellers Association.

She didn’t spend up on consultants. She talked to her husband about stock management and what market the business would be in.

She had a clear idea of how she wanted the store to have an industrial look, and the former Campbell’s Garage vacated by Martinborough Library was the perfect space.

She had some shelves made with metal pipes as features but many of the bits of furniture in the store are from home. A display of classic books is mounted on her piano chair.

She used an online resource to do her own design graphics and the business software she purchased has been invaluable in working out what to reorder.

Coddington talks in her own writing about how books are friends and as she goes around her store telling you about books, some of which cost $120, it’s like being introduced to a room full of friends.

One is about the greatest rooms of the century and who lived in them, another is about artist Frances Hodgkins, another is about cows and another is about people and their watches.

They are “books you want to keep”. They’re not the books you will find in next week’s village book sale.

They’re also not books you might read on Kindle, they’re big, with interesting themes and a lot of illustrations.

“I love, love books,” said Coddington, who has worked in publishing and journalism and written several books.

In the 1980s she ran a licensed restaurant in Russell then became a feature writer at North & South magazine and went on to compile The 1996 Paedophile and Sex Offender Index.

Then she became a list MP for the Act Party.

The shop is housed in a large industrial space with a vaulted ceiling which for 70 years was Campbell’s Garage. A plank covers the workshop pit.

She found an original photo of the building and 1930s Evening Post adverts of cars sold by Les Campbell to hang on the walls.


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