Arty Bees Books is a multi-level, family-run, independent bookstore nestled in the heart of Wellington City, Aotearoa, New Zealand. Birthed in 1988 by Bob Burch, a 60 year old 'redundant' worker and short time flying instructor during WWII, Arty Bees Books grew, split then morphed into the city's largest retailer of pre-loved, new and rare books. On its shelves sit over 130,000 titles ranging from the obvious to the outright bizarre with a specialized interest in the areas of Science Fiction and Fantasy, New Zealand Fiction and Non-Fiction, and the Rare and Antiquarian.
"As a business whose core purpose is to recycle pre-loved items, we know that we are not just filling up the world with more consumer junk. Books have a life of their own that we think transcends the clutter of the modern lifestyle."
Now in 2012 Arty Bees Books, in its latest incarnation, offers a chunk of its books for sale online! Browse the Catalogues or send a Book Query if what you're searching for isn't in the online database yet. You can also add your book to the Want's List (a database of titles that customers are searching for) in case the books come in at a later date.
Here's what you just did by shopping locally with us!
1. You kept money in the local economy
Based on US research, we know that for every $100 spent in a local business, $68 is likely to stay in the community, versus $43 when spent in a national business.
2.You embraced what makes us unique
You wouldn’t want your house to look like everyone else’s in New Zealand. So why would you want your community to look that way?
3. You created local jobs
Local businesses are better at creating higher-paying jobs for local people.
4. You helped the environment
Buying from a local business conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation, less packaging, and products that you know are safe and well made, because we stand behind them.
5. You nurtured community
We know you, and you know us. Studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of non-local businesses.
6. You helped keep the high street healthy
Supporting local business means more colour and variety on the high street and creates more reason for local authorities to support them.
7. You created more choice
We pick the items we sell based on what we know you like and want. Local businesses carry a wider array of unique products because we buy for our own individual market.
8. You took advantage of our expertise
You are our friends and neighbours, and we have a vested interest in knowing how to serve you. We’re passionate about what we do. Why not take advantage of it?
9. You invested in entrepreneurship
Creativity and entrepreneurship are crucial to our economy. Nurturing local business ensures a strong community.
10.You made us a destination
The more interesting and unique we are as a community, the more we will attract new neighbours, visitors and guests. This benefits everyone!
We don’t just sell books here at Arty Bees! We support various community projects through donations and advertising. Here are some of the organisations we support.
This is where you come in! Any books we can’t use in the shop regularly get picked up by these organisations for their annual bookfairs. Other groups who sometimes use donated books for fundraising stalls are Opportunity for Animals and the Taoist Tai Chi Society of New Zealand.
Here are some of the events we support.
Hi, I’m Bob Burch, founder of Arty Bees Books.
As an introduction to our web page, I feel it appropriate to give a light-hearted explanation as to how I came to “burst upon” the Wellington book scene some 18 years ago.
The first 44 years of my working life were spent as a Chartered Accountant or Company Secretary (apart from 3 years in the army and then the air force, where I was a flying instructor during the last few months of the war). In retrospect, I now realise how little personal "job satisfaction" I found, working for various employers, and not being my own boss. This dawned on me when I was made redundant at 60, when my then employer sold his business overnight to another company, and that my services were no longer required, “at my age”. This did little for my self-esteem!
Shortly afterwards, my wife and I found our relationship deteriorating after 34 years of mostly happy marriage, during which we raised our 5 children to adulthood. After a "trial separation”, we subsequently divorced. I moved into a small cottage, expecting a long, lonely retirement, with little expectation, at my age, of finding a new job or new love.
During the next 9 years I joined the Wellington Working Men's Club, played snooker and indoor bowls most evenings, and lawn bowls at weekends. During the day, I spent a lot of time browsing in second-hand bookshops, and also attending auction sales, where I found I could often buy cartons of old books very cheaply. Such “bargains” were too much of a temptation, and before long my small bedroom became very cramped with little room to move. This was when the idea of becoming a retailer first surfaced. It was either that, or move to a larger house!
When a small bookshop in Cuba Street became available in 1988, I “took the plunge”, and so launched my new career. I changed the shop name to ARTY BEE’S BOOKSHOP, using an acronym of my initials RTB. Six months later I purchased a second shop, trading as CAMBRIDGE BOOKS, which I later changed to COURTENAY BOOKS after a move around the corner to larger premises.
Both shops relocated several times over the next 18 years, in each case to larger or better locations, using the names ARTY BEE’S BOOKS and BIZY BEE'S BOOKS.
In 1992 I was fortunate to meet Judith, whom I subsequently married. I appreciate the companionship and love which she has brought into my lonely life, and the wisdom and support she has provided to me.
When I turned 80 in 2003, I decided it was time to look to the future security of Arty Bees Books Ltd. I was delighted when my eldest daughter Pippa accepted an invitation to join the company. As my health has deteriorated she has taken over the running of the business. In 2004 we decided to re-brand both shops under the original ARTY BEES BOOKS umbrella name and in 2009 we closed the Courtenay Place shop and expanded the Manners Street shop over two floors in The Oaks Building. We still have over 130,000 titles, now all in one location. Pippa works closely with the other members of the management team, Matt and Jessica, and I am delighted to know the shop is in such capable hands. I salute them, not only for all their skills, but also for the friendship they have extended to Judith and I during their long employment with Arty Bees.
I am also proud of the wonderful shop staff we have employed over the years. They are all very knowledgeable about books and authors, and dedicated to providing efficient, warm, and friendly service to all our customers, both regulars, many of whom have become our friends, and visitors to our wonderful city. As the shop is open for business for at least 84 hours per week, over 7 days, we need an efficient roster system, and we thank them all for their co-operation in the smooth running of our business.
Not least, we thank our army of loyal customers – without you, we would not exist!
Shortly before I first entered the second hand book trade, Smiths Bookshop in Mercer Street had closed after giving many years of service to the booklovers of Wellington. I decided then that there was a gap to be filled. I now feel that Arty Bees Books may have achieved my dream.
Bob Burch (Founder)