Focus on the Land
One book closes, another opens . . .
Monday, July 30, 2012
THE END has come for the story of Gisborne second-hand book shop La Boheme. Owner John Gillies has closed the doors to the pre-loved book boutique for the last time.
Mr Gillies opened La Boheme in 2001 but, after more than 11 years in the trade, he is philosophical about winding up the business.
“I’ve been here 20 percent of my life,” he says.
“I thought about shifting but it didn’t make sense financially. As soon as that clicked, the decision was obvious and I was fine with it. I’ve had a great time with the shop. It’s like being a customer with first dibs on books. But now it’s time to do something different.”
Mr Gillies has collected books since he began to earn a wage in his teens. The inspiration to operate his own shop came when British actor Anthony Hopkins dropped by his home for a cup of coffee and a chin-wag.
“As a Herald reporter, I interviewed Anthony Hopkins in the back of his car when he and Mel Gibson were here in 1983 to film scenes for The Bounty. I had already written a piece for the Weekender about what it would be like to have Anthony Hopkins at my house with the kids dominating the scene.
“I told him about the piece and he came around for a cup of coffee. As he was leaving, I asked him if he would like something to read on the flight home.
He said that would be nice — and took a copy of Henry Fielding’s novel Joseph Andrews and a book by Francois Mauriac because he had acted in a play by Mauriac.
“The pleasure I got from being able to find books for him from my collection . . . I thought ‘what a neat job, finding books for people to read’.”
After running a small bookshop at the railway station, and having a selection of second-hand books he called The Beggar’s Opera at Muirs cafe, Mr Gillies opened La Boheme.
The shop is named after an opera by Giacomo Puccini, in which a character is a book collector.
As a book collector himself, Mr Gillies says he enjoys matching people with books they are trying to find.
“It’s self-indulgent, really. I can play the music I like and put up pictures I like, because I’m the one who is here the most.
“Bookshops run the risk of being seen as arty-farty places . . . which is why I had a Magnificent Seven picture on the wall — to bring the place down to earth. I tried to make it feel like a living room and even had my mother in to help out, which made it just like home.”
The shop attracted regulars.
“They came in at different times of day and different days of the week. The heater was on, there was a comfy sofa and they got a cup of coffee.”
La Boheme’s left-over books have already found a new home. A Hawke’s Bay prison librarian will take in any books as long as they don’t involve hunting, self-defence or explicit sex.
“She’ll take romance books because she can send them to the women’s prison.”
Mr Gillies says while many second-hand bookshops around the country have closed, there will always be a future for them.
“There will always be a need for hard-to-find books and books that carry a memory for people.
“Second-hand books are fine things for poor people and bohemians. You will always find a treasure in a second-hand book shop.”
THE END: After more than 11 years in the second-hand book trade, Gisborne dealer John Gillies has closed the doors of La Boheme forever. Picture by Paul Rickard
04:25 p.m. Monday, Jul 30, 2012
How sad . . . this was my son's favorite bookshop when we came home to Gisborne. He will be devastated, he lived in this shop.
Good luck to Mr Gillies for the future, you will be missed.
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