Like a good novel, The Yass Book Store is off to a challenging start



Joanna Hicks couldn’t find an empty store on Yass Main Street to open her bookstore, so she settled a little further up the street in her family’s former B&B. Photo: Sally Hopman.

Joanna Hicks’ dream of opening her own shop in Yass has all the ingredients of a great novel.The long wait for a store to become vacant on the main street of the city (it never was).

The first COVID-19 lockdown. Then the second on September 13th.

But she was not deterred. Aren’t bookstores full of drama?

Last weekend, Joanna finally opened the Yass Book Store for stores. She had done a trial pop-up shop in August, but it mostly attracted family and friends, so she looked forward to being welcomed to the big wide world.

Business was good on the weekend. People came by and it was a great start. But at midnight on Monday, the city was sealed off again.

ALSO READ: Online Shopping Helps The Yass Valley Community Survive The Lockdown

Joanna had to wait some time for this dream to come true to open a bookstore. This is not some old dream. The former civil servant and trained librarian wanted to give Yass something that it hadn’t had for around 10 years: its own bookstore.

A place where people can meet, discuss, learn about the latest releases and meet writers and other creative souls. It was never meant to be just another bookstore when it opened in the family’s former home, a former B&B called Minnie’s.

“I’ve always waited for a store to open on Main Street, but that didn’t happen,” says Joanna.

So she decided to open the shop in the former B&B, still on the main street, just a little further up the street towards the motorway.

The small, traditional cottage is now The Yass Book Store and looks exactly as it is – a book lover’s home with books, stationery, prints, and other pieces taking up most of the tables and chairs inside. There are recipe books in the kitchen, good strong novels in the bedroom, and bookcases in the living room with maps and pictures that adorn the mantelpiece and most other flat surfaces.

Books in the kitchen at the Yass Book Store

Where else would you keep recipe books except in the kitchen? Photo: Sally Hopman.

Joanna has created a unique oasis in the former B&B, in which every room is furnished like a warm country house, but all are furnished with books, prints, paper and maps almost everywhere.

Having books close by has always been a part of Joanna’s life.

“I wanted to do that here,” she says. “Things like Kindles are good when you’re traveling, but I think there are a lot of people like me who just love having the physical book around – books that you love so much that you keep going back to them want to read.

“A book with a good story and characters will be with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

“I really think the concept will work in a place like Yass because there are so many creative people living here. It’s a wonderful niche area and I would like to show what people write and do here. “

Joanna Hicks is tidying up the bookshelf in the Yass Book Store

Joanna Hicks puts the finishing touches on the bookshelves in her family’s former lounge, now The Yass Book Store. Photo: Sally Hopman.

This passion for reading and books didn’t come overnight – it has been with Joanna for as long as she can remember.

“I remember papa reading Lord of the rings and The Hobbit when I was only eight or nine, ”she says. “I loved it. In the end we even named our guinea pigs after some of the characters.”

The opening of the Yass Book Store is only the first part of the story for Joanna. She already stocks books by local authors but would like to expand this to include handicrafts, prints and stationery by local artists. She is also interested in hosting book readings and presentations, and promoting skills associated with age-old crafts such as bookbinding.

That is of course COVID-19 ready. In the meantime, Joanna has to be content with her new website and online shoppers during the lockdown.



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