An interview with Karen Kotze, owner of The Bodhi Tree Bookstore and Cafe in Mount Hawthorn.
Tell us the story of your bookshop: how, when and why was it established, and how has it changed since then?
It began in 2005 as an online bookstore, and opened as a bookstore café in June 2009. It grew out of a desire I had for helping people to improve their health and wellbeing.
What makes your bookshop unique?
It has a café in it! The café serves health conscious foods, everything is preservative-free. Much of it is organic – including the coffee, which is FairTrade Organic. It’s 90% vegetarian and lots of gluten-free and vegan options.
What is your take on the current climate for independent bookselling in Australia?
You have to specialise in your range of books, and be able to offer customers advice when they’re not sure what book they need. Mainstream books and novels are a dime a dozen on the internet and in chain supermarkets – so they are not what indie bookstores are about these days. Customers come to bookstores for an experience – not just a book – so it’s important to provide them with a broader and memorable experience.
What are the most popular genres in your store? Have you noticed any changes over the years or have book-buying trends remained consistent for you?
Our most popular genres are Philosophy & Spirituality, Healthy Mind, Cooking & Eating Well, and of course Childrens. This has been consistent since we opened.
What’s the most bizarre question a customer has asked you?
I’m looking for a particular book – I can’t remember the title, author or what it was about. But it was so inspiring – do you think you have it?
What’s the juiciest thing you’ve overheard in your bookstore?
Will the coffee take long? It’s just that my waters broke about half an hour ago.
In your opinion, what qualities make a good reader?
An insatiable curiosity; a love of books (not just stories!)
What is your vision for the future of The Bodhi Tree?
To be a wellness centre for the community.
List your top three tips for someone wanting to open their own independent bookstore.
1. Negotiate hard and consistently with your suppliers.
2. Employ staff who are able to generate sales with their knowledge and personality.
3. Don’t try to compete with online book sales – concentrate on in-store.
The Bodhi Tree is located at 416 Oxford Street, Mt Hawthorn, is open 7 days 8am–4pm, and can be reached on 9444 9884.