Village People: Time Out Book Store


Everyone who’s anyone knows the heavenly pleasure of spending a stolen hour (or more) in Time Out Bookstore. More than just a bookshop, this community hub is a veritable Village institution. A fixture in Village folklore, Wendy Tighe-Umbers first opened the doors 18 years ago, and has had the accomplished Jenna Todd at the helm for the past 8 years. 

Q. How long have you managed Time Out?
A. I’ve been here for 10 years.  I had just returned from overseas and I knew someone who knew the manager. I’m a photographer and I was working in education overseas so I was looking for an arts education job, but then fell into this and the rest is history.
Q. Did you train in photography?
A: Yeah I did. I’m still a part time photographer. I do weddings and portrait photography and my own art practice as well. I also worked at an art space in Dunedin called the Blue Oyster Gallery before I moved to South Korea to teach English.
Q. What’s your favourite type of customer?
A. Our favourite type of customer is one that feels comfortable here. One that can see the value in why they would spend their money here giving back to us and therefore the community. We see ourselves as a hub, and it is the type of place if you’ve got 20 minutes to wait you can just browse the shelves. You don’t have to buy something every time, but when you do want to buy a book, you would come here.
Q. What do you do on your day off?
A. I read and I read. I review books on RNZ once a month, and bFM twice a month and then I have a podcast with the Spinoff which is once a month, so I have to have four books done and dusted, plus whatever I want to read. I finished two books in the weekend, a little BWB text book by Atholl Anderson, I’m studying tikanga Māori at wananga as well so I had to read for that, which was about migrations to New Zealand in the 1300s, just a little book. And oh, I finished this book called My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, which is a memoir, a gender history book, it was quite interesting yeah. I also spend time with my friends, have a drink, go out for dinner. My husband is in two bands at the moment. I’m reading and he’s drumming, it sounds strange but that’s what we do.
Q. What was the turning point when you decided to commit to Time Out?
A. I got to go to Seattle and go to this American Booksellers conference and see the industry on a global scale, and then I got to go to the London Book Fair when we were shortlisted for best bookstore in the world. When you get out of the bubble of New Zealand, you can see like wow this is like a proper industry. Often New Zealanders think that this job just something that you do before you something bigger while you’re studying. The way that I saw people internationally have booksellers as their careers I found really inspiring.
Q. What does the future look like?
A. We have recently bought a house and would love to keep traveling in the future, but of course that’s on the backburner right now. Regardless, I’m really happy here, and we are part of a really great community in Auckland. This is the best place in NZ for us to be! Snaking my way out of the store, navigating a sea of chilled clientele and alluring titles my only regret was that I didn’t have a spare hour to hang and take some more Time Out with Jenna and the crew.
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