Anna Loder on owning a book cafe in Cronulla: I’m living a dream

A new year is a great excuse to embark on new adventures! And so, we’re thrilled to announce that we’re starting a new segment on Cheerful Worrier- ‘Know your Bookshop‘. Set in the heart of Australia are some most loved bookstores, and we aim to share the spotlight on their beautiful journeys. Read on!

This time, we speak with the ever-smiling Anna Loder from the Anna’s Shop Around the Corner based in Cronulla beach. In an enthralling conversation, she opens up on what made her start the terrific book cafe, sustaining the COVID induced roadblocks, her favourite part of the job and lots more. 

How did the idea of starting the book café occur to you?

Anna- I started in 2008. It’s been a long journey. I started working at the age of seventeen. I initially wanted a bookshop, but all the talk was that the bookshops were dead. Of course, they weren’t, but you’d need to do something else as well to keep it going. In the beginning, I wanted new books, old books, and the Cafe. But after starting the Cafe, I got really anxious around the latest books, so we decided to go with the secondhanded. Today we only do the new books if we’ve got the events and the authors are coming in. It works well that way. 

Can you describe your favourite memory of the Cafe? 

Anna- It’s the nicest people who’ve formed the nicest community here. People bring in books for others, which is just the loveliest sight. We’ve got the best people who make every day so memorable. 

Has owning a book cafe changed your relationship with books? 

Anna- It’s definitely made me realise that I can never read all the books that I want to. There are so many good books out there. I think every reader has that realisation that you’re going to die with this pile of books beside your bedside.

It mustn’t have been easy to sustain the business, especially during the pandemic. What has been your coping mechanism?

Anna- I think we’ve got lovely people, which is why it hasn’t been nearly as bad as I was expecting. My only fear is that I will catch the virus and give it to people. I think not even once had we been married to the idea that we might not be able to pay the rent. I have been lucky.

So tell me what a typical day in Anna’s life is like? 

Anna- I’m an early riser. Because of that, I start the Cafe early, at 5:30am. We’ve got a nice steady stream of walkers and people commuting. These are early morning people who come in for coffees, and it just goes like that. 

If you had to open your book cafe today, how would you do it differently? 

Anna- I wouldn’t even try new books to start with; I would definitely do the events because I get so much enjoyment out of those. They have been wonderful for the book club and us. What else would I do? Gosh, just be prepared to work harder than I’ve ever worked before. The Cafe is hard work, and a bookshop is hard work. There are never enough hours in the day. So you’ve got to go with what you can do. 

What makes your book cafe unique and different from others? 

Anna- The fact that it’s in Cronulla. Like every other book cafe owner, we try to bring our own distinct style to it. We work hard and are wholly invested in the Cafe.

If the bookstore cafe wasn’t in the picture for you. What else would you have been doing? 

Anna- Probably something that wouldn’t have made me as happy as I’m today. I have sisters who are teachers, so maybe I would have been a teacher. But I would like to think that I would get bored in the classroom. None of that really appeals to me. This is everything that I’ve always wanted to do.

What has been your biggest takeaway from owning a book cafe? 

Anna- That everybody is different. I didn’t realise just how many different types of personalities there are in the world. How many different reading styles there are and so on. I thought that everybody read like me, but everyone is different. Everybody brings something new. 

Secondly, small business is tricky. One needs to compliment people on their excellent job. It cheers them up a big deal. It’s music to their ears. It never occurred to me to compliment somebody on the business, and now I do it all the time. 

What has been the craziest situation you’ve ever had to deal with? 

Anna- When you’re working with different people, it makes every day a little bit crazy. You have mixed experiences. Someone requested to make a skinny decaf long black, and I was like, there’s no milk in that. It was crazy because it just went on and on and on. 

What would you say is your key to success in the last 14 years?

Anna- Probably because I love it. I’m living a dream. I’m never really worried about how many hours I’m putting into it. If you start working out how much you got paid by the hour, you probably would stop working. And you would start working in a supermarket instead. 

What do you enjoy the most about being a bookseller? 

Anna- Oh, getting to find out how people read. I find that fascinating. I must be a people person because I enjoy seeing which section my customers go to and whether I can tell what type of book lover they are.

What is the hardest part about being a bookseller?

Anna- Because I’m a pre-loved bookseller, I’m at the mercy of the books that come in. Sometimes it’s hard because if you love a particular book, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will resonate with your customers as well. That’s a frustrating bit because there can be so many things that can go wrong. 

What motivates you to work every day?  

Anna- I’ve got good habits. I get my clothes out the night before. I wake up early, and up I go. I feel like I’m not seeing customers all day, but rather friends dropping in for coffee, so that’s always nice. It doesn’t feel like work, so I think that’s always a good thing. 

How did the podcast ReadAPod come into the picture? 

Anna- This happened in the 2020 lockdown when I had to cancel all of our events. I thought instead of cancelling, how would it be to do these events as Facebook lives. They are good, but you can only see them on Facebook. Many people don’t want to join up to Facebook, so the podcast was born. I’m also an avid podcast listener. It was a no brainer, but gosh, they’re so much effort. 

How do you balance a book cafe, author events, book club and podcast?

Anna- Unfortunately, there is no balance. I was able to get ahead of the podcasting when we were in lockdown in 2021. I was at home, doing the podcast, and that was fantastic. Now I’m back at the shop and want to get the events back in action, get the shop back up and going. So I have to put the podcast on the back burner, which hurts so much. Once I get everything up and going, it’d be better to keep all the tapestry going, but it’s hard to pick up.

Do you have a piece of advice for anyone who’s looking to start a book cafe like you? 

Anna- Go ahead and do it. You won’t regret it. It is a lot of hard work, but it’s a lot of good rewards as well. Nobody explains how hard you can be working in any small business, and they also don’t mention how much pride you’re going to have. The more effort you put in, the greater the rewards, and it’s so addictive. 

You can look up Anna’s famous book cafe here & can listen to her bookish podcast ReadAPod here.