Picture this. The quaint little bookstore. The kind you only see in the movies. Where you, the city slicker, having embarked on a quick sojourn, decide to stop in a small township for a bite and a stroll and perhaps even a browse through the community shops.
A tiny little shopfront catches your eye – the one with the books and knacks heavily crammed in the store’s window and on display out the front. You apprehensively open the creaky wooden door to the store, the attendant looks up from the counter and instantly greets you with a smile. A smile that is convincing, meaningful and warm all at once and which you’ve never seen in any department store you’ve frequented over the past decade.
In that moment, time stands still.
The stuff of movies, right?
Welcome to Yarra Cottage Books in Warrandyte.
This quaint bookstore, which has been running for over two decades, is home to some tens of thousands of pre-loved books. And I can guarantee you that it is a genuine and convincing smile from owner Steve Brazil that will greet you upon entry.
Steve’s passion for books and of course, his old-world bookshop, is unmistakeable.
“I’ve always had a love of books, my brother was exactly the same – we had a massive, massive library,”
says Steve proudly.
Yarra Cottage Books, which Steve and Jo Brazil took over in mid-2009, is of course not this bibliophile’s first foray into bookselling, with Steve having opened his first bookstore in a café in Healesville after retiring as an Assistant Principal. The bookshop was a success, but after five and a half years, Steve knew it was time to leave.
“The store was fantastic, but we went through the fires and felt it was time to move on, take a break, so we shut the store down and went overseas. When we came back, we saw that this Warrandyte shop was for sale… so here we are.”
The sheer volume of books is what immediately strikes you about this cottage turned bookstore. Rows of shelves stacked with books edging their way to the ceiling, multiple rooms crammed with books, books neatly piled on the ground, books outside the storefront, books quite literally filled to the brim.
Asking Steve if he can estimate just how many tomes he has in his store, prompts a slight pause.
“I’ve got around 30,000 on shelf, 1500 online and many more in the store room – many, many thousands I’d say.”
Yarra Cottage Books’ offering centres on the sale of quality pre-loved books. Steve prides himself on being able to find those “out of print” and “hard to find” books and enjoys being able to reunite readers with much loved favourites from their past as well as to find those persistently difficult volumes that buyers just cannot locate.
“I have regular customers who always buy books from me and even overseas customers who buy from me. “I’ve made friends over the years,” says Steve when asked to talk of his clientele. “Even a gentleman who comes into the store each week. He buys me a coffee and a bun and we just talk for an hour… he’s not just a customer, he’s my friend.”
More recently, the bookshop has found home to a range of what Jo likes to dub “curios” – not trinkets nor bric-a-brac, but curios which have been handpicked by Steve and Jo’s son Gideon to echo the retro feel of the bookshop itself, which Jo says “brings back memories for all sorts of folk” that find their way into this little haven. Depending on when you visit, you may even find occasional works of art on display, hand painted by Jo herself.
The bookstore is located in front of the picturesque Warrandyte River Reserve, situated along the Yarra River in Melbourne’s east. The building is said to have been built in Bendigo around the mid-1850s and carted over by bullock teams from the goldfields, when all the men had left the area in search of gold, leaving no one behind for construction.
The shop itself has taken many forms over its 170-year history, starting as the Government assayer’s office (an office set up for the registration of gold), then becoming a bakers’ residence around 1920. Since that time, the building has had both commercial and community purposes, eventually finding its home as the beloved bookshop it is today, which officially opened in 1999.
Yarra Cottage Books is open 5 days a week from 10am to 5.00pm from Wednesday through Sunday; closed Mondays and Tuesdays.