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It’s been a good read

By Beckie Wilson

[email protected]

Russell Carthew wasn’t sure if the book trade was what he wanted to do, but when he left school in 1958 to work in his family’s Pahiatua bookstore, he discovered his passion for retail.

Now, at the ripe age of 75, Mr Carthew and his wife Dara, have decided to finally sell their Paper Plus   business in Masterton.

“It definitely will be sad to let it go, but my real passion would be to see someone take it on, do well and see it grow,” he said.

Mr Carthew started working at the family store at 16, and really enjoyed working in retail. After many years of working there, he took over the business in his early 20s.

He is a fourth-generation bookseller, his great grandfather having established William Carthew & Son in 1879, in Feilding. His father then struck out on his own and opened the Pahiatua store in 1933.

At the age of 40, Mr Carthew decided he needed a change, so in 1983 he sold the business in Pahiatua and moved to Palmerston North where he owned various businesses including a bookshop, Toyworld, Lotto and a post shop.

In the first year of owning the business, Mr Carthew and four others found it difficult to compete against the larger chain stores also selling stationery and books.

They decided to come together to start a business, Nationwide Stationers. Each member put in $1000 to pay for a manager and initial equipment start up. After one year, the business gained momentum and had shop owners across the country. It later become Paper Plus.

“In about 1999 I was cruising and thinking about retiring at 60, but was approached to open a Books & More bookstore in Masterton.

“So that’s what I did, I came here with the thought of only staying five years.”

In 2005, Books and More was bought out by his original company which forced Mr Carthew to again work under the Paper Plus banner.

In 2008, the store moved to its present location on Queen St and became the flagship store in the country. It is one of the best performing Paper Plus stores and always is in the top 10 for sales, and in the top five for book sales.

The store was one of the first to have KiwiBank, New Zealand Post, and just recently a Lotto outlet which claimed a first division winner last month.

Mr Carthew said it was a great feeling to overcome the trends that was once thought to be the downfall of bookstores.

People said television, internet, and the kindle would eventually close bookstores, but it actually encouraged people to read more.

“You have to be prepared to change with the times, you can’t just do things the same old ways you always did,” he said.

The store has won various awards over the years including the north island bookstore of the year, Paper Plus Store of the Year, and 2010 New Zealand Book Industry Award for the best bookshop in the country.

The biggest achievement was winning the Russell Anstiss award for outstanding effort in Paper Plus.

Mr Carthew and Mr Anstiss are two of the five founders of Paper Plus.


  1. Russell is a proud and worthy standard bearer for the wonderful world of book stores. Like him I grew up surrounded by books in my father’s book store in Feilding. Dad was Russell’ uncle. It is great to read that book readership remains strong. There is no substitute for a good book for relaxation and learning. Russell is also our family’s resident historian at which he does a fine job.

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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