When Tony Moores and Tara Jahn-Werner took over Poppies Bookshop they had exciting plans for the iconic Remuera store, which has stood for 35 years in the Village Green. Their goal was to return to the original Poppies concept of a local, niche book store that provides the personal touch... and that is exactly what they've done.
You're joint owners - how long have you known each other?
Tara: Probably 40-odd years? Tony was my husband Alan's best friend at high school. In fact he was with us on our first date - Alan owned a car but didn't have his driving license, so Tony chauffeured us! We ended up flatting together at university too.
Do you live locally?
Tara: I live in the Waitakere Ranges, but I consider Remuera to be my neighbourhood as I drive in at first light to beat the traffic, then go for wonderful early morning walks around Remuera. I'm trying to convert Tony, (who lives in Howick) to do the same!
How many books would you read in a month?
Tara: At a guess probably 8 or 9. I get bored easily, so I've usually got 4 - 5 books going simultaneously.
Do you have similar reading tastes?
Tony: I enjoy fiction with the odd travel memoir thrown in. I'm more of a contemporary reader, whereas Tara tends towards the classics, like Dickens and Proust.
Tell us three of your favourite books/authors.
Tara: Any book by Kate Atkinson (she's very witty), my favourite books as a child was 'The Little Prince', and my favourite author would have to be Virginia Woolf.
Tony: 'The Pillars of the Earth' by Ken Follett would be my top pick, I loved 'Coral Island' as a child, and Bill Bryson is a fantastic author.
Do you have 'bookworm' backgrounds?
Tony: I've been in the book trade for a long time now, but I actually started my working life as a school teacher. It wasn't until my wife got a job in a bookshop that I realised where my interests lay.
Tara: My background combines business with a love of the arts. I've been a lecturer in arts management at university, a journalist focusing on the performing arts, and an arts consultant.
How do you decide which books to stock in Poppies?
Tony: We share the book buying, and our mantra is to "buy for our own interests but not necessarily our own tastes". We listen to what our customers want and get a sense of what the locals are reading, and we get feedback from the books clubs that we run.
Are the book clubs a regular occurrence?
Tara: We started them last year, and they've taken off big time. They're pretty casual events - we sometimes invite a NZ author, and we share ideas, discuss books - then the book club usually goes somewhere for dinner afterwards. We often run two to three a week, so if anyone wants to organise one with us, pop in and let us know.
Are some titles more popular than others?
Tara: Our overall best-selling book has been 'Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book' by Diane Muldrow.
Tony: Fiction-wise, 'All the Light We Cannot See' by Anthony Doerr.
Tara: And for non-fiction, definitely 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying' by Marie Kondo.
What sets Poppies apart from other book stores?
Tony: The atmosphere in here is casual, relaxing, like you're in someone's sitting room. There's no clutter - we like to give our books breathing space! Total strangers have said how beautiful the shop is.
Tara: We know why every book is here! Our books are hand-picked, and you'll notice they are deliberately not in alphabetical order on the shelves. It's about serendipity, fun, surprises. As Mark Forsyth wrote in 'Bookshops and the Delight of Not Getting What You Wanted'... "only a bookshop can give you that precious thing - what you never knew you were looking for".
What do you most like about working in Remuera?
Tony: You don't need to leave - everything is here! It's rare to have a "village identity" in the midst of a huge city. But that's exactly what we have here in Remuera.
Do you have regulars?
Tara: People travel from all over Auckland, and as far away as Whangarei and Tauranga to visit us. And we don't call them regulars, we call them our champions!
Do you ever visit a library? Or does owning a bookshop negate the need?
Tara: I do, for research purposes.
Tony: Just for audio books which I listen to in the car.
Now for a cheeky question. Do either of you own an e-reader?
Tony: No... but I do read books on my smartphone sometimes!
What do you do in your spare time?
Tony: Gardening, house painting, movies and walking.
Tara: Walking, cycling, composing music and photographing flowers.
The Village Green, 415 Remuera Road
Ph: 09 524 4001 www.poppiesbooks.co.nz
Photos by Vanita Andrews and words by Fiona Wilson