Books on Seddon overlooking Waihi's main street has the air of a place that's been there as long as the town itself.
But it was the hibernation of an English language school due to Covid-19 that led owner Margaret Kaye to bring her independent book store to reality in recent months.
The store sells quality second-hand and rare books in the lofty, light-filled, historic wooden building that housed Cranwell dentists from 1904 before it became Cranwell and Cranwell, then E Wilson and then Bruce Wilson, before sitting empty for a period.
"It's incredible that it sat empty," marvels Margaret of the category 2 historic place with arched windows, wonky character-laden native timber floors and views from each room.
Margaret has created a welcoming place where people of all ages sit and thumb through books – some will buy them while others will take a quiet pause and be on their way.
The owner welcomes this behaviour, enjoying seeing people gathering or relaxing on their own to read the eclectic collection she offers for sale.
Sections in different rooms include children's, young adult's, "Bach books" and "Collectible Lee Child" and on the morning of the Hauraki-Coromandel Post's visit, customers enquire if Margaret has a poetry section, and another asks: "philosophy?".
Margaret also buys books from within the community and anything that's donated is carefully sorted through and surplus is donated to hospice.
She cleans every book so the shop has no musty or dusty smell. Book condition is important, although classics or out-of-print and sought-after books may be in a well-loved state.
Many are as-new but with a second-hand price.
"It is really interesting what books come in," says Margaret, who sources them from various places including Auckland.
I've watched customers come in and talk to each other for half an hour then exchange phone numbers. It's that kind of place.
"What I've found here [in Waihi] is people are buying non-fiction. Philosophy, books about the Dalai Lama, lots of alternative therapies and things like keeping ducks, old crafts ... I had a young boy come in and buy a book on woodturning because he's an apprentice and wanted to read up on it."
She points to a title on hen keeping and adds: "Our community is amazing, I know that will go quickly."
Margaret says independent shops are disappearing around New Zealand as elsewhere in the world and she believes there should always be a place for a local store that offers a poetry book for $5.
"I think that's one of the most amazing things about it, what's hidden in Waihi's community, and stuff that comes through the shop is endlessly fascinating. It's not a job."
Margaret has a house in Waihi but regularly commuted to Auckland, where she was a teacher of foreign students at an English language school.
When Covid-19 put the school into hibernation, she found herself searching online for potential rental properties in Waihi and was in the "right time right place" to find an available lease on the upstairs corner site at Seddon St.
Some customers walk the stairs and comment on the eerie memories of being a child going to the dentist, but overall most people say the feel of the building is warm and welcoming.
"The young adults' room had three friends come and sit and read for the good part of an afternoon. I'm really appreciating the way people are using the shop.
"I've watched customers come in and talk to each other for half an hour then exchange phone numbers. It's that kind of place."