This is a portion of the final newsletter from Parsons Booksellers. Booksellers NZ is very sad to see Parsons close its doors, as are many loyal customers of the store. As the history portion of the newsletter mentions, Roy Parsons was a member of the Booksellers NZ board many decades ago, and helped instigate the Book Tokens scheme, for which many millions of kiwis since have been grateful.
After 66 years in business we are closing our doors for the last time on Friday 14th March this year.
Naturally we are sad because this is the end of two generations of business in Wellington, but we have come to this decision for good and positive reasons and we’d like you to know the story. The main reason for the closure is that my sister Beatrice and I are ready to retire.
I began working at the shop at 17, and 54 years later, I am 71 with some dreams
still to realise. I want to read and re-read, sometimes on the deck of my boathouse
(on the site formerly occupied by Sam Hunt) on the Pauatahanui Inlet. I have a bent for building and mechanical pursuits and ideas for some new projects and activities. I look forward to slow time with friends, family and grandchildren.
Beatrice is creative and will have more time to use her talents. As well as buying the books and running the shop all these years, she has enjoyed theatre work, designing, sewing, jewellery-making, gardening, caring for her beloved cat Jasper, and being on the committee of Wellington Chamber Music. She has more things she’d like to do.
The last years in the shop have been challenging. You will be aware that changing technology and retail trends have affected independent specialist businesses like ours, especially those selling CDs and DVDs. Happily for Wellington booklovers, there is a fine selection at the independent book stores: Unity Books on Willis Street, Capital Books on Featherston Street, Marsden Books in Karori, Millwood Gallery on Tinakori Road and The Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie.
Our family-run business has been a presence on Lambton Quay since 1948 when our father, Roy Parsons, opened his first book shop. Over the years it has expanded and become a Wellington institution providing books, classical music, DVDs, coffee and home-made food in a unique setting with dedicated staff. People often tell us they appreciate the modernist architecture, enjoy the eccentric atmosphere and value the service. The composer Stravinsky, after visiting Wellington in 1961, was reported to have said that he had been to the best book shop in the world.
We are proud of our history and our customers are essential to that history. Whether you are a recent, occasional, or longstanding and loyal patron of Parsons, Beatrice and I want you to know how much we have valued your support. We sincerely thank you.
Between now and March 14th, Parsons invites you to make the most of the opportunity to select some treasures before we close. All stock will be half price.
Tilly from Unity Books has published this letter in The Dominion Post, in response to this closure:
Parsons – the people and the shop culture – provided Alan Preston a great deal of warmth & light when he set up Unity Books in the 60s, and through all the trade and literary change since, that warmth & light has never wavered and has kept Unity Books strong.
It might be the way of the world, but losing Parsons means that we at Unity will feel significantly ‘lesser’ in both a cultural and community sense.
I think it was Murray Pillar from Millwood Gallery who first expressed that we Wellington indie bookshops work in a trading spirit of co-opetition, and I know (even if one is not always a practising optimist) that it’s a happy and sustaining thing for us and for the city. We share a lot of book-buying community together but, in a mutually respectful way and also as a result of our own shop personalities, Unity didn’t go fully into Parson’s ‘high-brow’ and Parsons didn’t go fully into our ‘radical’. But it was always more complex than that.
Alan Preston enjoyed telling a story from the early 70’s, back when shipping meant ships and supply meant 3 months. Unity’s feminist and hippy stock had finally arrived from the States and Alan imagined that Roy Parson’s UK tomes had too. Bumping into Julian on the street Alan was delighted to note that they were dressed antithetically to their stock – his own tweed jacket and tie, and Julian’s flowing yellow Neru shirt.
I feel very sad personally and for the creative trades. Unity Books always sees Parsons Books & Music as a true Lambton Quay sibling; a haven for intellectual quality, and a source of laughter and friendship. The thing is, Beatrice and Julian Parsons are big brainy generous personalities and we will all – as a city – miss their shop-front representation of that.