Meet The Locals | Bookoccino Avalon

13 July 2021

Bookoccino in Avalon is more than just a bookstore – it’s the literary centre of our vibrant arts-minded area.

A while ago, I spoke with co-owner Sally Tabner on how Bookoccino is Avalon’s community hub for the arts, music, coffee lovers and soon, wine lovers.

Tell us the Bookoccino story

The store was first opened in 1992 by Margaret and Roger Hutchings. Over the years they hosted some great speakers – Tom Keneally, Annie Proulx, David Marr and more. I came to work for them about 7 years ago. We had just moved to Lovett Bay from the Mid-North Coast, and my kids had just started school. I wanted to be available to them, so I took a job at Bookoccino. I fell in love with the place. When Margaret and Roger decided to sell the business, I couldn’t afford to buy it on my own. Raymond Bonner came onboard, and we bought the shop a few years ago.

How did you meet?

Prior to Covid19, the Northern Beaches had an influx of summer visitors from all over the world. Ray would always come into the shop at Christmas time. This is because the holidays in Palm Beach each year with his Australian wife, Jane Perlez, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has reported from around the world and is currently the New York Times bureau chief in Beijing. Ray is a renowned author, also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who has been a staff writer at the New York Times, The New Yorker and has contributed to The New York Review of Books. He is incredibly connected to the literary world. We had Richard Flanagan and Geraldine Brooks at our opening party. In May 2019, Bookoccino had a packed house for Jill Abramson, the former editor of the New York Times, who was in conversation with Juanita Phillips, about her book Merchants of Truth. We regularly have incredible access to great speakers – Richard Fidler being one of those.

What would draw a Pulitzer Prize winner to owning a bookshop in Avalon?

Both Ray and I love people! Being interested in books and writing speaks to the fact you love humanity. We wanted to enhance the lifestyle of the people in the area by holding readings and engaging in conversations. We also cater to children with Storytime on Tuesdays. Bookshops build a community, and that’s an essential thing in today’s fractured society.

Bookoccino has shifted across the road from its original position and renovations were undertaken by famed local architect Drew Heath, who readers may also know from the television show House Rules. What was it like to work with him?

We were just about to sign the lease for the old shop when there was a big flood. Then I saw a lease sign across the road. The property was twice the size and brand new, so we were in need of an architect who loved books. Drew Heath had been one of our regular customers. We had developed a friendship after I hunted down an out of print book on Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa. Drew appreciated it and we started talking about how Ray and I were buying the business, moving and remodelling. Drew said it was his dream job. He brought his extraordinary modernist principles, natural materials, the use of light and ventilation to the task. Drew has a great appreciation for the fine details. Our shelves are capped with brass detailing, leather and a lot of different textures.

Avalon is renowned for having a reputation as a very artistic community and Bookoccino seems to be the epicentre for the creative people in the area?

We’ve got no shortage of talented people around here! Most people are quiet about their success, though. We appreciate the support of some great artists, designers and writers.

And now Bookoccino has become a music hub?

We have live music on Saturday and Sundays. Writer and photographer Cameron Bloom, who wrote the international best-selling memoir, Penguin Bloom, soon to be made into a film starring Naomi Watts, comes in every Sunday to support his 15-year-old son Noah who plays jazz with his mate Tyger. James Morrison also joined them on the trumpet. We also have Saturday afternoon music and over winter will open our in-store, wine bar, Bookovino. You’ll be able to enjoy the winter sun, have a glass of wine, and hear fantastic music.

What is the quintessential book about Avalon?

Salvation Creek By Susan Duncan, set in Lovett Bay, is always very popular, as is Kate Grenville’s Secret River.

Bookoccino is known for its author events. What should we keep an eye out for soon?

We’re lining up lots of ‘big names’ in the artistic, literary and political worlds. Stay tuned. It will be exciting. Check the website for details.