As an avid reader and lover of books it’s a no-brainer that I adore bookshops. I particularly love that they’ve morphed over the years and become so much more than places you buy books. Not only can you enjoy coffee and snacks, but many create a wonderful sense of community and promote a love of reading and books to future generations.
Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay (MRHB) does exactly that. I first met owner Cate Akaveka when I attended an author event not long after she purchased the store and was impressed with her obvious love of reading and passion for sharing that with others.
Cate and her husband moved to Hervey Bay from Sydney in 2001. Her oldest (of two boys) was a baby and they were keen to move out of the city and try a different lifestyle.
Cate bought Mary Ryan’s in August 2013 after leaving the state government. She was keen to invest in something which would keep her employed and when she found out that Mary Ryan’s was for sale she knew it was karma. Or kismet. Or similar. 😉
“I knew right away that it was the right business for me and I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I think I love pretty much everything about owning a bookstore.”
Cate really liked the staff and was very happy when they all agreed to stay on after she purchased the business.
Cate says she’s always been a passionate reader and still has a lot of books from her childhood.
“My mother said she always knew what I was reading because I would become the lead character. I guess I was Anne of Green Gables for a significant amount of my childhood!”
I follow the MRHB Facebook page and am often agog and the myriad of activities on offer.
They have a couple of book clubs—including one for teenagers—which meet monthly. There’s a French conversation group that meets one Saturday each month. And on the first Saturday of each month, there’s a get-together called Coffee, Tea, Philosophy.
It’s a group Cate started because she really wanted to have some meaningful and thought-provoking discussions about things that matter. Fortunately, a few other people felt the same way and this group has now been meeting for over 12 months. Newcomers are always welcome, so it’s something I’m pencilling into my diary!
On top of all of the regular activities I also love the author events on offer.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve had some great authors at the shop including Brooke Davis, Inga Simpson and Josephine Moon. My favourite author event was with William McInnes last December. People are still talking about it!”
Cate says these events are her favourite part of the job.
“I like to see Mary Ryan’s as more than a retail outlet, but rather an integral part of the community. I think it works because a lot of our customers feel like family and seem to enjoy a ‘sense of belonging’ when they come in.”
MRHB’s cafe is always busy and Cate suggests the that’s because the food and service are consistent and the staff have been there for a long time. In fact Café Manager, Chris, was actually on board before the café even opened.
Cate also thinks customers enjoy the ambience… that the book / coffee combo creates a homely and welcoming feel.
The store doesn’t have a full kitchen so focuses on light lunches, cakes etc.
“Our most popular dishes are the ones that are home-made. Chris’ cheesecakes have become quite famous and we have a number of customers who phone us to hold some for them.”
Not having a set menu means the MRHB team can mix it up a little. In winter (generally May to September) the store offers home-made soups and in summer, pasta and salads.
And something I didn’t know… was that from 2-3pm on weekdays, they have a happy hour with half-price tea and coffee.
But back to books… Cate loves some quirk and names Tom Robbins as her favourite author. And her favourite genre? Literary fiction—books she describes as well written and featuring words in a way that make her want to read them over and over again. She picks Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie as the best book she’s ever read with Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North coming a close second.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for the team at MRHB will order it in for you, or they can help suggest some options. Cate laughed when I asked her about making recommendations and said they’re occasionally surprised. As much as they think they know what titles particular customers will enjoy, there are always some that come completely out of left field which (she thinks) is a good lesson in not making assumptions… or judging a book by its cover! #sorrynotsorry
Pop into Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay and say hi to Cate and the team. You can find them at shop 5, 15 Central Avenue, Urraween (opposite Stockland Shopping Centre). Telephone: (07) 4194 2111. Follow them on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their latest activities!
Check out Cate’s recent interview about the closure of ABC Bookshops and any impact it may have on Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay.
Upcoming events (check FB for details): 1 August - Chris Collin (author of the Funky Chicken) 8 August - Tara Moss 8 August - National Bookshop Day 18 August - The Reading Hour 3 September - Indigenous Literacy Day
**Pics all from MRHB FB page**