Book store

The Echuca bookstore is the best in the country

National winners: a photo of the team shortly after the store opened on High St; from left is Jacki Avers, Cindy O’Neill and Bryan O’Neill, and inset, Jacki and Cindy after last week’s announcement. Photo: Cath Gray Photo by Cath Gray

Cindy O’Neill remembers Christmas 2019 like it was yesterday, and it doesn’t immediately make her smile.

It was a turbulent three days that saw her relocate her Collins bookstore business to its current High St.

That epic Christmas Day unboxing effort is now a distant memory as the Echuca business was named Franchise of the Year by National Collins Booksellers.

“I remember this movement very well. Everyone was on deck (staff and my daughter Abbey) when we closed the old site at 4pm on Christmas Eve,” Ms O’Neill said.

“We put everything in boxes and moved everything that night.

“Then on Christmas Day Abbey and I unboxed it and put it on the shelves. We spent half an hour having dinner at McDonald’s and then the store opened at 10 the next day.”

Ms O’Neill has always been a hard worker, and the effort to re-establish the business at its new location was made to meet demand.

“Visitors and locals alike love to read during the holiday season,” she said.

“We have a lot of riverside readers and a lot of return business.”

When Ms O’Neill bought the business it was about to close, making the national price even more important given the climb to the top of the mountain.

Ms O’Neill and her “right hand man” Jacki Avers were celebrating the result yesterday when The Riv caught up with the pair, after being announced as the winners last week at the second Zoom-hosted Collins Booksellers conference.

“It was the second time we have self-sufficient,” Ms O’Neill said.

“Last year we won the National Marketing Award.”

The Echuca store beat 11 other Victorian stores, as well as nine from NSW and several more from the remaining Australian states.

“In all, there are 28 stores in Australia,” she said.

Ms O’Neill, a mother-of-three who owned a second-hand bookstore before taking over the Collins Booksellers business, said the roller coaster that was the book business was back on an upward trend.

“It’s a bit of an up and down. Books were the only way to go years ago, and then Kindle came along and drastically reduced bookstore profits,” she said.

“Now books are making another comeback.

“People tell us it’s the feel of the book, the smell, just turning the pages.

“Also, if you drop your iPad in the bath, it’s a very expensive book.”

Ms O’Neill said that because she and Ms Avers were avid readers, the conversation flowed freely with book lovers.

“Jacki and I were born and raised here, we went to school together,” she said.

“People like to talk about books, it’s not just a nine-to-five job.”

Collins Booksellers turns 100 next year; Its base of operations is in Melbourne’s Bourke St shopping center in the iconic Hill of Content building.

As for what people read by the minute, Ms O’Neill said anything Australia sells.

“Biographies are also very important, Lisa Wilkinson’s book is very popular,” she said.

Three sisters by Heather Morris is also a great book. We like to promote Australian authors.

A book written by a 99-year-old Holocaust survivor from Auschwitz, titled The happiest man on earthalso received rave reviews.

He was 101 when he died, but he was able to hold the printed version of his story before he died.

Mrs O’Neill and Mrs Avers, as well as Mrs O’Neill’s father, Bryan, and Sunday’s daughter, Sophie Baldwin, can all share credit for the outcome.

“Dad (Bryan) is a bit of a local legend,” Ms O’Neill said.

“He is here on Tuesday, having retired from the news agency after 30 years.”

Only Mrs. O’Neill’s daughter will be able to celebrate Christmas with her this year; Abbey, who is serving in the Australian Army in Darwin, will be returning home for the holidays.

Mrs O’Neill’s sons, Braydon and Lachlan, will be in Mount Gambier for the festive season.