3 January 2024

Doing something write: Riverina's largest bookshop passes 100,000-title milestone

| Oliver Jacques
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woman outside her bookstore

Carla von Brockhusen reads a book a day. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Two sisters originally from Wagga have built up a bookshop in the small town of Berrigan that now has more than 100,000 titles on its shelves, making it one of the largest in Australia.

Cristina and Carla von Brockhusen are avid readers who own thousands of books in their personal collection.

“I don’t watch TV anymore and read a book a day,” Carla said. “My sister and I discovered we had about 1600 books in common across our collections. We thought we’d sell those books and that’s how it all started.

“It was 2012, I was still living in Wagga and Cristina started the bookshop on her own while she was working at the bank. I then joined her, and we’ve moved the shop about six times.

”It took about three to four years to build to the point we are at now. We did a lot of planning during the pandemic.”

woman in front of rows of books in store

Carla has no problem keeping track of the vast stock on offer. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

The current location at 43-45 Chanter Street is a colourful labyrinth with never-ending corridors where you can find mostly secondhand books that are often hard to obtain anywhere else.

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“We have about 40,000 fiction, 20,000 kids’ and kids’ fiction, and the balance would be non-fiction,” Carla said.

”We also have audiobooks and DVDs. About 90 per cent of what we stock is not currently commercially available. We trade online, we get books from people moving, or deceased estates and other ways.”

In addition to the 100,000-plus books on the shelves, there are a further 20,000 or so in a storage shed out the back. But Carla seems to have no problem keeping track of her inventory.

“Excuse me, do you have Pamela Stephenson’s book Billy?” a customer asked Carla while Region was visiting the store.

“Yep, just go down the front corridor, right-hand side and about a third of the way down,” Carla responded, without missing a beat.

bookshop corridor

You could get lost in the Berrigan bookshop. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Bookstores all over Australia have been closing during the past decade, but Berrigan Bookshop continues to expand as it enters its 12th year. In terms of sheer numbers, it is one of the largest in Australia.

“People like to touch books. You don’t retain as much reading online as you do reading books, research has proven that,” Carla said.

“New books are only a small proportion because we can’t compete with the big chains, people can buy retail cheaper than I can buy wholesale.

“All we need is for the big retailers to not be able to discount books for the first six months.”

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But for now, Carla is content to have captured a niche market and to continue to shock travellers who can’t believe a small town can have such an expansive bookshop.

“We still get a lot of customers, especially those travelling, going from Wagga to Adelaide or Melbourne and from Deniliquin to Albury,” she said.

”They are often impressed. We have a lot of hard-to-find material that was scarcely published. If we don’t have a book you’re looking for, we can help you find it. We also sell books via our online eBay store.”

More information on Berrigan Bookshop can be found on its Facebook page.

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