Annie Grossman is well known across the Sunshine Coast as the owner of Annie’s Books on Peregian, a quaint beachfront bookstore that has been pleasing book-loving locals and visitors for 12 years. It is everything an independent bookstore should be. Inviting, friendly, stocked with bestsellers as well as rare gems, and the kind of place adults and children alike feel comfortable to linger and have a chat.
Ms Grossman’s passion for the printed word is legendary. Perhaps less well known is that she is a former opera singer and has a rockstar brother, Rick Grossman, of Divinyls and Hoodoo Gurus fame. Born in Sydney, she says she had a blessed childhood with parents who encouraged her love of literature from a young age.
“Both my parents were big readers,” she says. “My brother and I were given open slather. Nothing was inappropriate in our house as far as reading went. It gave me a pretty high bar. I won’t read rubbish.”
Ms Grossman’s father died in 1980 and in the last years of his life, he opened a bookstore in the Blue Mountains. This, she says, may have planted a seed for her desire to be a bookseller, though it didn’t become a dream until later in life.
“I’ve got a very funny background,” she says. “I worked in theatre doing stage management in Sydney for a little theatre called Q Theatre, which moved to the western suburbs of Sydney where people had never seen live theatre. It was quite highly respected and I shared a house with Judy Davis for a little while when she was in the company. My brother Rick has had a life in the music industry and we’re both classically trained. I had the idea of singing opera and he played violin and cello. I studied opera for some years but when I moved to Airlie Beach I stopped.”
Ms Grossman says she’s immensely proud of her brother and if she ever decided to write a book, it would be about him. A former heroin addict, he kicked his addiction and now helps others in the music industry deal with addiction.
“He’s a bit of a saint, my brother,” she says. “We’re both very grateful for where we came from and the influences we had growing up. I try to push him to write his life story. He’s quite a modest person but he came through the music with all the big names.”
Ms Grossman’s introduction to the book trade came when she moved to Noosa in the 1990s, working at Written Dimension bookshop for 10 years.
“I was always the book detective,” she says. “I would go searching for rare books. I also started to run the events and that was great fun. My manager there was Rachel, who works with me now. She taught me everything I know. She’s a great bookseller and has a great mind for the back-room stuff of bookselling. That’s not my forte. I’m better out on the floor. We had about 15 staff on rotation there and in my store we have just three of us.
“We’re pretty good at curating books – we’re better than Amazon,” she laughs. “We’ve got to know our community. If something comes in and we think, oh so-and-so would really love that, we’ll ring them. We know our community. The shop is a hub for people getting together… We have wonderful conversations all day long in there about books and life in general.
Ms Grossman acknowledges the internet has changed the bookselling industry, but believes there will always be an appetite for independent bookstores. “We try to give people an experience,” she says. “We’ve got a lot of knowledge between the three of us. We’ve all read all our lives. I am genuinely passionate about books and reading. It’s like oxygen to me.”
Ms Grossman has lived in Peregian for 25 years and is a much-loved member of the community. When she lost her partner Ben in August last year after a three-month cancer battle, the community embraced her. “Peregian is an amazing community,” she says.
“Fortunately, I have the bookstore, which is a very large part of my life. My kids are in Melbourne and Auckland so they’re not a daily part of my life and my mother is 94 and in Sydney. The majority of my social life is the bookstore. I have made some great friends.
“Even when I’m at home and I think, oh, I don’t really feel like it today, within 10 minutes of being there, I’m in my real happy place. It’s interesting every day and the books are still so exciting.
“I’m very optimistic on the future of the book. I think bookshops will exist for a long time. God forbid bookstores ever die. COVID has been really great for the book trade; people are reading more. We have actually been given a big boost and I’m very grateful. It’s like I’m being smiled down upon.”
Love your local bookstores:
- The BookShop at Caloundra
- Rosetta Books, Maleny
- Maleny Bookshop
- Harry Hartog, Sunshine Plaza
- The Little Book Nook, Palmwoods
- Berkelouw Books, Eumundi
- Sandy Pages, Coolum
- Kickback Books, Mooloolaba