Pop-up No More

The past, present and future of Adelaide’s Pop-up Bookshop

Our city’s bibliophiles have long followed with great interest Adelaide’s Pop-up Bookshop. For years, Kate Treloar and Nick Patrick would appear seemingly at random with a cart full of carefully selected, high quality, inexpensive second-hand books in one of Adelaide’s markets, arcades or cafés.

The two met years ago as bike couriers, “or professional cyclists as we tended to proffer”, Treloar says. “It might ruin our austere bookselling reputation but our life together kicked off listening to a local punk band in the Austral beer garden,” she says.

What took them from there to carting about the city’s leading literary wagon? “Perhaps it would be easier to list the things we haven’t done, but Adelaide has always been a central theme,” Patrick says. For five years, they ran Chapter Two Books, a “traditional bricks and mortar bookshop in Stirling”.

Inspiration for a pop-up stall came in a trip to Europe five years ago. “We saw the emergence of pop-ups, mainly fashion labels, in the big cities like Paris and London. When we returned, the food trucks were kicking off here in Adelaide,” Patrick says.

“We looked into and obtained street trading permits, and since then we’ve basically just looked for different ways to put seriously good books in front of people.” A few years ago, they traded in the nomadic life for a temporary store in Rundle Mall.

Short-lease booksellers are not uncommon on the commercial strip in the holiday season, but where other vendors mostly sell remaindered sports memoirs and the like, Adelaide’s Pop-up Bookshop skewed towards books of poems and literary first editions.

“At the risk of sounding cheesy, we love being surrounded by books like these,” Patrick says. “And every day we get numerous people telling us how much they love our shop, which is enormously rewarding and gives us a buzz every time.

“Rundle Mall was excellent exposure for us,” he says, “but it doesn’t lend itself to local owner-operators like us. Although for many people we were an interesting oasis in a sea of brands, the physical demands of maintaining high quality stock seven days a week aren’t humanly sustainable for such a hands-on business.”

More recently, they’ve set up shop in the Adelaide Central Market. “We’re really enjoying the different vibe,” Treloar says. “The shopping experience and the atmosphere is more representative of what makes Adelaide special. Those who frequent the Market understand and appreciate the hard work and passion of family businesses.”

With shops that sell new books closing faster than ever before, is this, by comparison, a golden age for the second-hand bookshop? In short, according to Treloar and Patrick, no. “The number of second-hand bookshops has been declining at much the same rate as new bookshops but without the fanfare,” Treloar says.

“It’s a tremendously difficult time for the book trade in Australia as a whole but the benefit of such massive disruption is the opportunity for innovation.” They say, however, that the chaos of the current marketplace has, “given everything we do an edge of anarchy”. “We challenge our customers,” Patrick says.

“Our stock is constantly changing. We’ve danced all around the CBD. We hate alphabetising, mix new books with old, and only put in books we like, not those which convention or sales reps dictate.” Indeed, things are going sufficiently well for Patrick and Treloar that the Adelaide’s Pop-up Bookshop’s name is about to become a little less accurate; the Central Market recently became their permanent home.

Is a change of nomenclature on the cards? “Almost unequivocally, no,” says Kate. Although they’re now a ‘bricks and mortar’ business, she says the brand is still “likely to pop-up in different spots from time-to-time given the opportunity, so the pop-up nature will live on”.

Adelaide’s Pop-Up Bookshop Adelaide Central Market adelaidespopupbookshop.com.au

X