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A proud owner . . . Renee Rowland, alongside Ruby the dog, is very happy to be operating a business she deeply cares for. PHOTO: GEORGE CLARK

by George Clark

Renee Rowland always dreamed of working with books.

The Twizel Bookshop owner opened a second bookshop, Bay Hill Books, in Stafford St, Timaru in July.

The opening was a bid to secure the future of her bookshop-working dream in an uncertain economic climate.

During lockdown, Ms Rowland realised her 12sqm bookshop in Twizel, which turned three years old in August, was not big enough to generate money for wages.

With a “go big or go home” attitude, she decided to create Timaru’s only independent bookshop.

“I realised that I really want to do this, even though Covid-19 meant it was really risky. We are still just hoping for the best but it was lockdown that catalysed the movement to open the second one – to make the first sustainable.”

The 36-year-old was becoming increasingly tired of work in London’s corporate world before deciding to take a dive into literature.

With a passion stemming from a lifetime of reading, the plan was to come home to New Zealand and work in a bookshop.

“I wanted to do it to get a discount on books, but could not find a place to work in. So I made my own.

“I love reading. Books have always been a force for good in my life and I wanted to share it with others. I was always that kid in the library each day – I remember walking to the library every weekend and filling my bag up with books.”

Ms Rowland wanted it to be a place members of the community could go to and feel safe.

Every Monday, Bay Hill Books offers a meditation circle where the public is invited to a half-hour-long guided meditation and a cup of tea.

Each Saturday the shop has a morning story time where children of all ages can sit and enjoy books in a corner set up for comfort. Every month there is a book club where Ms Rowland provides wine and nibbles amid book news discussion.

“It can be quite busy in there, in a good way.”

She was excited to host several author events in the months ahead, including Rhian Gallagher, poet and author of Far-Flung, a new collection of poetry published by Auckland University Press and Caroline Barron, author of Ripiro Beach.

“New Zealand Bookshop Day is coming up on Saturday, October 17 and will be celebrated across all the amazing bookshops in New Zealand.

“We will have competitions, spot prizes, cake and tea all day long, and a very special guest, Laurence Fearnley, coming to read from her books.”