A look at Launceston institution Petrarch’s Bookshops

LOVE AFFAIR: Marcus Durkin said he loves being surrounded by books. Pictures: Neil Richardson
LOVE AFFAIR: Marcus Durkin said he loves being surrounded by books. Pictures: Neil Richardson

Marcus Durkin has seen generations of Tasmanians come through the doors of Petrarch’s Bookshop.

His parents bought the business in 1985, meaning he spent countless days of his childhood skulking the aisles of the Launceston institution. 

Mr Durkin would spend his primary school summer holidays out the back arranging stock, while his parents Peter and Rhonda ran the show. 

However, a love for reading didn’t develop in his early childhood years. 

“It was great growing up here surrounded by books, but I guess I didn’t appreciate it until I was older,” he recalled.

“I look back and when I was in primary school I lived in a bookshop, but didn’t read too much.

“I remember now that there were several books I read that got me into reading, but that was in year 7 and 8.

“John Marsden’s Tomorrow when the War Began series really got me reading.”

After leaving the nest and forging his own path in teaching, Mr Durkin returned to Petrarch’s about 10 years ago. 

Among the greatest pleasures of the job for him is being able to build and maintain genuine relationships with customers. 

Marcus Durkin

Marcus Durkin

He said some of regulars from 1985 are still sighted in-store in 2018.

“We have their children and their children’s children come in,” he said.

“A couple of years ago, we actually employed a young girl who was the daughter of someone who worked for mum and dad when I was a child.

“In terms of our staff and customers, we have generations of people coming back.”

He said it was particularly important to cultivate ongoing community relationships in the face of online competition.

With two major extensions in the past 10 years, Mr Durkin said it was clear Petrarch’s hadn’t really been affected by the rise of online bookstores.

“You come in for an experience, not just for the book,” he explained. “They come in to look at our new books, or look at our recommendations, or talk to someone about it.

“From our perspective, you get to know lots of customers and you almost call them your friends, rather than customers.”

Mr Durkin’s wife Andy joined the store three years ago, organising a launch for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as one of her first initiatives. 

Mr Durkin praised the series for introducing many millions of children to reading.

“Andy organised a huge dress up day and we had people lined up back to the ANZ building and 90 per cent were in costume,” he recalled.

“Harry Potter turned so many kids into readers and it was that experience I was talking about before – from not reading to reading that one book that turns it all around.”