The Sunflower Sets

on Thursday, August 30, 2012
In a couple of days Sunflower Bookshop, one of my favourite places to hang out, will be closing its doors for the last time. To me, Sunflower has always felt like a cultural and literary home. It represented everything that's great about independent book selling - thoughtful buying, dependable recommendations, a welcoming ambience and, most of all, truly wonderful staff. In the confines of a relatively small space, Zev and Margaret managed to create a massive local hub of literary life. Authors and readers alike could often be found wandering around, perusing the shelves, talking with one another like old friends. I couldn't begin to count the hours I spent there just chewing the fat with whoever was willing to put up with my diatribes. Best of all, the staff really cared about the customers. They got to know their tastes, listened to concerns, were happy to take recommendations as well as give them. When I won The Age competition they proudly stuck the story up on the wall, directly opposite their shrine of Elliot Perlman clippings. A year on, it's still there.

Thankfully all is not lost. For those not yet in the know, the space has been bought by one of my other favourite lit-hubs, The Avenue Bookstore and will be reopening under that moniker in just over a month. As sad as I am to lose Sunflower, I am relieved that it has been acquired by the only shop that can do the area justice. If you are not already an Avenue devotee, I urge you to give them your full support when they open their doors in Glenhuntly Road. There's a reason they consistently win the Best Independent Bookstore at the Australian Booksellers Association Awards. From what I understand, Chris and his fantastic team will be bringing The Avenue vibe to Elsternwick but maintaining the Jewish connection of Sunflower. To my mind, it's win win.

I am told that Sunflower will stay open on Saturday with a mix of current staff and some new faces from The Avenue, so if you haven't had your chance to say goodbye and would also like the opportunity to meet Chris I recommend you get down there. I'm sure you will realise straight away that your reading future is in very safe hands.

And so it is with the odd combination of a heavy heart and great excitement that I say farewell to one of the greatest independent bookstores ever to grace our fine city. Thanks to all those, past and present - Zev, Margaret, Faye, Steven (apparently my mortal enemy), Dierdre, Vivienne, Elissa, Maya, Michelle and all the other wonderful people - who have graced its carpeted (and, after the flood, wooden) floors. I am indebted to you for more than I can express here and wish you only amazing things in your futures. At last you can read for pleasure. Enjoy!


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