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A Must Visit To Books On Seddon

Waihi's thriving community has a rich and fascinating history, including over 100 years of mining gold and silver, and in 2019, the township garnered a new claim to fame becoming New Zealand’s most beautiful small town.

There is strong local support for culture, heritage, the arts, fitness and well-being, and the growing number of cafes, restaurants, boutique shops, and options for accommodation make it a special place to mooch for a day or spend the night.

If you enjoy reading, a visit to Books On Seddon is a Must Do. Owned and run by Margaret Kaye, the second-hand store is a treasure trove of fiction and non-fiction, quiet reading nooks and quirky art.

We sat down with Margaret to find out more about her business, the fascinating people who pass through the door, what inspired her to work with books, and of course discover what’s in her reading pile.


Photo: Margaret Kaye, owner of Books On Seddon and co-worker Robyn


Tell us about you and your business, and what you love about Waihi.

I come from the small town of Mamaku where my parents had a sheep farm. I began my book career at Rotorua Public Library on Friday evenings. After university I did a year at Library School in Wellington (some customers say they can tell). I then worked in various business libraries here and overseas. The most enjoyable being for an architectural and construction company.

I got diverted by a fair bit of travel and then made my first foray into the bookshop world when I opened a specialist travel bookshop in Auckland. It proved to be at the wrong time, so I moved over to the publishing side of books. Eventually Waihi called as my partner was born here, and we decided it would be a good spot when he retired. And so it has been!

The perfect premises was in the process of renovation when I had the idea that Waihi needed a second-hand bookshop. A short time later on election day 2020 the shop opened.

I love lots about Waihi. It is a friendly place, it has an interesting history and values that. I love being close to the beach, and being able to do some great walks. I’m still discovering some of Waihi’s nooks and crannies. I like that it’s not just a tourist town, so it has activity all year, but also we get to meet people from all over New Zealand and the world. More and more I am appreciating the countryside around, which is so beautiful and varied.


Photo credit: Waihi - The Coromandel | www.thecoromandel.com


Your books are secondhand, do you specialise in particular genres?

No, I don’t specialise. I have books right across fiction and non-fiction ranges, so there are popular thrillers, all kinds of fiction, classics, poetry, biographies, cookbooks, histories, books on New Zealand, self-help, business, art, children’s books and so on. As long as I feel the book will grab someone’s attention and it is in good order, I am happy to stock it. I am always surprised by the range of books that go out the door!


Photo: A selection of books at Books On Seddon


What can visitors to Books On Seddon expect to find, and why would you encourage them to visit?

People regularly comment that the space is welcoming, beautiful, airy, and doesn’t smell like an old bookshop. The books aren’t crammed in, so you can see them easily. It’s a place to come and relax, and just see if anything catches your eye. Probably something you never expected, and of course if you’re after a particular title, it’s always worth asking!


Tell us more about the nook for kids, the quiet reading spaces and quirky art.

Because the shop is divided into six inter-connecting rooms, it was possible to have children’s and young adult books in their own rooms. This has been great, and when children have been before they head straight for their room and parents can browse in the other spaces.

Colourful rugs, a beanbag and stools encourage them to sit and read. It’s an unusual space and kids love climbing the stairs and disappearing! There are one or two chairs in all the other rooms too, so there is usually somewhere to sit if you are waiting for your friend to choose a book.

My partner Danny curated the artwork. There are old photos of Waihi, a mix of Robin Morrison photos and a couple of other things people may not expect. These may change, but generally it’s not for sale.


Photo: Robyn enjoys her book by the fire


Tell us about the people who visit the store, the proportion of locals to those passing through, and do you meet many who are riding/walking the Trail?

I could write a book about the people that visit the store. About all they have in common is that they read. This makes it a fascinating place to work, and I enjoy many interesting conversations. It’s hard to gauge the proportion of locals. There are regulars, but for me a ‘local’ comes from quite a wide area. Or they can be a Bach owner who comes by often. There is certainly a good proportion of people who are passing through, both on the Trail and driving to Tauranga/Coromandel/Auckland/Waikato.

Books on Seddon has become a ‘destination’ store, with repeat business from people in places like Gisborne and Nelson, and we are getting known on the ‘Second-hand Bookshop’ Trail. People become addicted to visiting second-hand bookshops, and are always looking for a good one, and they’re not disappointed when they get here.


How do you acquire the books? Are there donations of collections, and do you travel to book fairs in other parts of New Zealand?

The books come in a variety of ways. Whether books are donated or I buy them, I have to be selective, as I don’t have space to take everything people want to pass on. I go to book fairs here and there, and have other favourite haunts, as well as auctions.


Photo: Books On Seddon


Do you research your books, and have there been any which are particularly rare or valuable?

I do research my books as I’m pricing them, especially the non-fiction. I’ve been surprised sometimes by something that is pretty special and valuable, as they mostly don’t look it. The value can be because of age, but also scarcity. I’ve just unexpectedly received a Two-volume set of Shakespeare’s plays published around 1874. I hope people will at least enjoy seeing it. Some books are very hard to let go of.


Owning a bookstore is quite special and unique. Was there a book you read as a child, or a particular experience which sewed the seed for this career path?

There wasn’t a particular book that inspired me, but I was always reading and even though we lived in the country, we always visited the library when we went to town. My dad had his head in a book a lot, so I knew it as a great way of escape.

My working life has always been around books or information, even my travel experiences led to me opening a travel bookshop. So, when Covid ended my few years of teaching English to foreigners, a second-hand bookshop seemed an obvious next step, and I am so enjoying it!


Photo: Margaret in the Children's Book Room


What are you reading at the moment?

Right now it is The Colour Purple by Alice Walker which a customer had talked about. It came in and I am enjoying it. I usually have two or three on the go at once, and I’m reading quite a bit of New Zealand history at the moment.

I’ve just started Jenny Pattrick’s Harbouring which came out last year and weaves our colonial history into a great story. There’s a lot of variety in my reading piles, as so many ‘must-reads’ come through the shop.


If you would like to visit Books On Seddon, you can find opening hours and more information here.


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