TAMLYN STEWART - The Press - 21/01/2013
Arts Centre Bookshop owner Darryl Wells is feeling the loss of tourists to the city. His bookstore took a battering in the February 2011 earthquake and business had been a struggle since he reopened nearly a year ago.
The Arts Centre Bookshop has a 22-year history in Christchurch. Wells bought it seven years ago, after previously working as a service station manager. The store's books are either written by a New Zealander, about New Zealand, or published by a New Zealand company.
On the day of the February 2011 quake, part of the ceiling came down in the shop, all the books from the third shelf upwards fell on the floor and "there was dust everywhere".
Seated at his desk, with little room to move, Wells saw the thick wall in front of him crack.
After the shaking stopped, Wells checked on the other tenants on his floor before leaving the building.
When he was allowed back in four months later, he was faced with a pile of 5000 books on the floor. Shelving had been removed so the walls could be braced.
Using a borrowed van, Wells packed up all the books and took them home.
He received a payment for lost and damaged contents at the end of 2011 but did not have business interruption insurance.
He took another job working at a service station from April 2011 until January last year. He looked at places to set up a container shop but couldn't find anything viable, until he spoke with Anthony Reid, of the Woodcraft Gallery, also a former Arts Centre tenant.
Reid had the idea of building a new store out of freezer panels on a vacant site opposite the Arts Centre and Wells decided to join him.
The pair completed the project early in 2012. Woodcraft Gallery has the front section and the bookstore is behind it. His new store cost Wells $10,500 plus GST. He and the other business owners on site pay a low monthly rent to the landowner.
The bookstore reopened on February 1 last year.
"I was happy, but it was tempered by the fact I knew it would be really tough. And it was."
With fewer tourists visiting the city, sales are well down and winter had been really hard.
"The worst was I went four days without selling a single thing. Not a postcard."
Sales are still lower than pre-quake levels but December had been encouraging.
Lately a few tourist bus drivers were stopping in front of the stores and pointing them out to passengers.
"December last year was the first month that I actually had any money left over after I paid my monthly accounts."
Wells would like to stay on the site where, he said, there was a sense of community.
His goal is simple: "To make enough money to stay doing what I'm doing. I'll hang in here as long as I can."