Rob and Kaye Clarke are celebrating 40 years of owning and operating an award-winning bookshop in Paraparaumu.

Their story started on an autumn evening in 1979 when Rob, a 25-year-old English and geography teacher at Scot's College, received a phone call from his mother asking if he would be interested in running a bookshop.

"The concept was immediately attractive," said Rob, who loved books and would always make a beeline to Ian Fisher's bookshop in Copperfields, Paraparaumu Beach, when visiting his parents.

Rob, with his parents Louise and Basil, bought Coastlands Book and Toy, and together with his wife-to-be Kaye, who he would marry a year later, an amazing 40 year journey started on May 1, 1979.


The shop was given a major overhaul to give "books a chance".

Despite various government roadblocks, including carless days, the bookshop had a solid footing especially as there was no other competition and the fact many Wellingtonians ventured to the mall on weekends because it was the only place that did Saturday trading.

There have been various challenges throughout the decades but the couple have never shied away from the hard work and dedication required to maintain their quality bookshop now called Coastlands Paper Plus.

Moreover they enjoy the variety everyday brings and "we just love what we do", Kaye said.
Maintaining a bookshop that had an ambience which people felt comfortable in was an important aspect of their success.

"But the real key is relevance, knowing your community and what stock it's interested in, and staying with the trends because they keep moving," Rob said.

"You have to adapt because what you did last year isn't going to be the same as what you do this year, or be anything like what you're going to do next year."

Some books have been easier to sell than others though — more than 1000 copies of An Invitation to a Royal Wedding, featuring photographs of Charles and Diana's big day, sold at the store in the six months after the couple tied the knot.

The store's biggest seller, at over 2500 copies, has been Waikanae Beach's Chris Maclean's Kapiti since it was published in 1999.


Having a dedicated staff, including some who had been worked at the shop for more than 20 years was invaluable, not to mention Rob's brother Jonathan who had been there through most of the years.

"It really is family," Kaye said.

Another important factor was their business relationship with Coastlands management.

"The mall has been a very workable partner and we've got mutual respect," she said.

The bookshop has moved within Coastlands six times always into bigger premises simply because "we were doing too much out of too little space and couldn't do it properly", Rob said.

"In the early days the mall had these huge bench seats and we would grab them, put them in horseshoe, put more on top, so it became a table top, and put the books on them, outside the shop, every Saturday."

The bookshop has hosted lots of famous people over the years from Richie McCaw, Jonah Lomu, Jeffrey Archer, Salman Rushdie, Bryce Courtenay to name just a few.

One of the funniest signing sessions was when All Blacks Stu Wilson and Bernie Fraser were promoting their book Ebony and Ivory.

Wilson asked if he could have a pen to sign the books, so Rob gave him one.

"Then he asked if we had any crayons, and I said 'crayons?' and he said 'yeah because Bernie likes to make his mark too'."

Awards have come the bookshop's way including Booksellers NZ Group Bookshop of the Year in 2012 and in 2013 won the NZ Book Industry Award for Group Bookshop of the Year.