Nambour Book Exchange owner and book hunter Darren Bailey has heard many a new customer stop, gasp and stare at the bottom of his stairs, in awe at one of Queensland’s largest bookshops.
by Rebecca Mugridge
Take a walk down Currie Street in Nambour and look for the bright yellow signs at the entrance to the staircase at number 103. Each step leads you down closer to a discovery of literature that feels like a secret Potteresque bookshop.
At first it feels impossibly large, like stepping inside Doctor Who’s Tardis; you might even catch yourself looking back up the stairs wondering how such an enormous space is tucked away down there. Even more so if you are a local and have passed the street and never wandered in.
A bibliophile’s dream, the store has been in existence for nearly 40 years and run by the same local family.
“My mum and dad ran it for the first 22 years and then I have for the last 15.,” shares Darren Bailey. “We were originally from the UK and immigrated in 1981 to Queensland and opened the store in Nambour in 1985.
“My uncle, Harry Bailey, bought the whole building in the late ‘70s when the existing shop, Bayards, closed down. Bayards was the go-to place for anyone living on the Sunny Coast. It was more or less a shopping centre in its own right. A bit like a Kmart or Target and everybody came to visit.“
“When my uncle first bought the building, he turned this into an entertainment centre with pinballs and space invaders. That was incredible of course, I was a young kid, so I loved it. Though that disappeared after probably a year and a half, as it may not have been quite right for Nambour at that stage, and then it became the bookshop.”
Darren says Nambour has a lot of history and that is part of its charm. He displays local history books on Nambour and the Sunshine Coast in the store and is proud that his family bookshop is a part of the town that he loves.
“We are not your average bookstore” he smiles. “There are all manner of treasures to be found.”
There are all the genres one has come to expect: fantasy, war, romance, action; even car manuals and non-fiction style sections, and large ones at that. But it is also home to rare and old books, collector’s items, exquisitely crafted and bound books, books you haven’t seen for a very long time and books you might not find anywhere else.
“I have never counted every book that I have but I would have close to 200,000 books. I have a very large stock room as well, with floor to ceiling books. And yes I still do get asked for titles I don’t have! That’s not that unusual though, that’s something that everyone in a bookshop has experience of.”
It is the variety and range that marvels so many of his customers and means one visit is never enough.
“There are many, many exciting books here,” Darren says as he lifts and shows beautifully bound books that look like they have stepped off the set of Pride and Prejudice, followed by modern Manga comics and even a selection of local authors.
“I’ve got books, five for $1,and I’ve got 1,000 dollar books, so everything is covered, every genre and every style.”
Owning such a bookshop Darren was bound to be an avid reader himself. “I used to take a lot home I have to admit, but now I put a lot back,” he laughs.
Darren is also quite the book hunter and goes out collecting books too and comes across some amazing finds.
“It is all so enjoyable; it’s been great over the years and my family has done well. I hope I will be here for another 30. We have some very loyal customers that have been coming in for a long time.
“I’ve just been helping a gentleman set up his mobile phone, and he was a customer of my mum and dad’s and has been coming in for longer than I’ve been here. He is a great local who really goes out and supports local businesses.”
Darren, like a lot of business owners, had a really hard time through Covid. He says while people would head out to get groceries, a coffee or a haircut, the normally bustling bookstore was deserted.
He credits the Nambour community and locals with helping him keep going and get through. “I had some really generous business owners that did quite well over Covid, and they helped me by coming in and buying books.
“And one young lady, a customer, even came in and chatted to me at a very low point and the very next day she came in with a $50 Aldi gift voucher, which was a very emotional time.”
Reading a book, they say, is good for the mind and soul. Reading and buying one from the Nambour Book Exchange, it turns out, is good for the community too.
You can find the Nambour Book Exchange downstairs at 103 Currie Street, Nambour. Contact Darren from 9am to 4pm weekdays and 9-12 midday Sat morning on (07) 5441 3255. Nambour Book Exchange is also on Facebook and Instagram.