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HomeCultureBooksPop into Gleebooks’ pop-up shop at the old Glebe Post Office

Pop into Gleebooks’ pop-up shop at the old Glebe Post Office

It’s as Glebe as Galluzzo’s fruit and veg, so it’s great news that Gleebooks has a temporary home in the old Glebe Post Office and will be back in its longstanding site at 49 Glebe Point Road as soon as its major renovation there is complete.

The bookshop’s pop-up shop, at the corner of Glebe Point Rd and St Johns Rd (opposite St Johns Church), opened on January 16 and is just a four-minute walk away from the site nearer to Broadway that has been Gleebooks’ home in the suburb for more than 30 years.

It is also just up from the iconic bookshop’s original premises – next door to Galluzzo’s – where it traded from 1975 until the early ’90s.

“We opened there in ’75 and then in ’85 we were going gangbusters so we took over the deli next door,” explained Gleebooks Director David Gaunt. “Then we bought the building down at 49 Glebe Point Road in ’89, moved in in ’92, and by the time we got everything down there (which took a year) business was so strong that we had to leave the original shop open. So, for a while we had two!”

Mr Gaunt said the inevitable wear and tear from 30 years of selling books at the Sydney University end of Glebe Point Road meant the Gleebooks building had deteriorated to the point of needing major renovation, which started in January.

Foundations, floors, walls, ceilings, roof and wiring were all being replaced, he said, plus disabled access and lifts would be installed, the events space overhauled and an extension constructed to house a mezzanine level café and wine bar.

“When I discovered it was going to take a minimum of 12 months to renovate, I realised we had to find alternative premises,” Mr Gaunt said.

Knowing Glebe’s history, he also knew there weren’t many buildings of the right size and character available for short-term lease.

Additionally, Gleebooks’ identity in Glebe is very important for the shop and had to be considered when choosing a site, given that Gleebooks is probably the next oldest “institution” after Galluzzo’s, which has been in the suburb since the 1930s.

“We needed a building that not only fitted everything in it, but also stood out a bit.”

Angelita Graham serves in the pop-up Gleebooks store at 181a Glebe Point Road while the bookshop’s iconic store closer to Broadway is renovated. Photo: Stephen Webb

With hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of books to relocate, he said the move itself was a logistical nightmare.

“I think it’s probably the hardest work I’ve ever done in this business. It’s incredibly complex, difficult and anxiety producing because you’re without revenue while you’re closed and, of course, you don’t know whether anyone’s going to turn up in the new space.”

Mr Gaunt said it had been exhausting making plans, letting people know “you’re a shop on the move” and also physically moving stock and equipment to the new site, which involved packing and unpacking 1,100 boxes, shifting 120 bookcases and supervising eight removal trucks worth of trips.

“Apart from the actual truck movement, our staff moved everything.”

The major rebuild was exciting. Or would be, he said, when he’d regained his energy.

“Now I have to think about how it’s meant to look, what colour and shape the shelves are, what paint to use … things I’ll normally run a long way away from making decisions about because books I know, that I don’t.

“When it’s finished, the building will be about a third bigger than it is currently to accommodate the café, bar and all the stock downstairs.

“It will be much more state of the art than it was.”

The revamped events space will incorporate a high-tech sound system, easily accommodate Gleebooks’ popular literary soirées and also be available to hire for other events like yoga classes and music gigs.

The shop’s redesign is one of the most momentous changes in Gleebooks’ 47-year history and Mr Gaunt said he was curious to see how well it would be received.

“In fact, I’m anxious 12 months beforehand about how it might go because we’ve had an identity built up over nearly 50 years now, and it won’t look like it looked in the 1970s,’80s,’90s and 2000s – and it will be interesting to see how people respond to that.”

Until then, the Gleebooks Pop Up shop is open for business, neat as a pin, well lit and with all the books you could ever want to browse and buy, beautifully displayed. The staff are welcoming, too, and knowledgeable. Eager to serve when you pop in.

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Visit Gleebooks Pop Up shop at 181a Glebe Point Rd, online at https://www.gleebooks.com.au/

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