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Coal Coast Emporium opens in Helensburgh

From left: Craig Miner (operations manager),  Sari Lokollo (manager), Jess Gordon (tutor)  and Judit Yolanda  (retail adviser).

From left: Craig Miner (operations manager), Sari Lokollo (manager), Jess Gordon (tutor) and Judit Yolanda (retail adviser).

Sari Lokollo and her team opened a new bookshop, the Coal Coast Emporium, in Helensburgh in July 2016.
It replaces the old video shop on Walker Street and shares the space with a complementary business: at the back is the Star Kids Tutoring study zone.
A university-educated primary school teacher, Sari founded Star Kids Tutoring in 2011. “It was just myself, and in the first two weeks I already had to put somebody on, because there was a demand.”
Now that business is so successful it has three centres: in Helensburgh, Thirroul and Figtree.
“We have team of 38,” Sari says. “We offer tuition all the way from kindy to year 12.”
Star Kids was the driver for opening the bookshop. “We wanted to bring resources to the public. We’ve always sold resources to parents, but we wanted to do it in a retail capacity,” Sari says.
So far, people love it. “We’ve had really positive feedback from the community,” says Craig Miner, Sari’s second-in-command. “Especially when people come in and find out we’re all locals – I’m Helensburgh, Jess is Helensburgh, Sari is Otford.
“Keeping as much in the town as we can is only going to help the town thrive and survive.”
The bookshop has “a little bit of everything”, including gifts. Child development is a major focus, with some books fostering a passion for science and others building emotional literacy. “These are for when children have bigger questions, like why Grandma can’t remember my name?” Sari says. “Handling grief, loss of a loved one, self-esteem – books that you can start conversations around.
“We do new releases every month, so there will be a turnover of new books. We do have some cushions and chairs – we’re happy for you to come in and have a look.”
Young adult novels such as the Del Toro and The Maze Runner novels have been particularly popular, Craig says. “We’ve got The Hunger Games, they’re going out the door, we’ve had to do extra order of the new Harry Potter release.”
It’s a brave move opening an actual bookstore in the virtual age.
“People are still very tactile, and want to have the book in front of them,” Sari says.
Books are also “absolutely” essential for a child’s development, she believes. “I have some ebooks for my son, but without fail he will want to pick up the actual book.”
Craig says books help you relax: “In this day and age, we have screens on our phones, screens at work, in the car… Down time! I think that sums it up. You can’t replace the sensation, the smell of the pages, sitting down and reading to your child.”
In the future, Sari would like to stock more books on local history and by local authors, use the space for book clubs and children’s reading days, but it will always remain “a little bookshop”.
“I want to keep it small and personal,” Sari says. “Helensburgh is that kind of town.”
n Coal Coast Emporium is at 9a Walker Street, Helensburgh and on Facebook. – Article from September 2016’s 2508 District News magazine