Lord Mayor’s Commendations

Kay Craddock, Antiquarian Bookseller

Whether you’re a book boffin or a curious passer-by, you’re in for a treat at Kay Craddock’s sumptuous second-hand bookshop on Collins Street.

Inside, around 1500 ornamental owls – gifted by friends and visitors over more than 50 years – watch over a treasure trove of texts.

‘I love the atmosphere of the shop and that sense of the unknown,’ Kay said.

‘You never know who’s going to walk through the door, what we’re going to buy, and what we’re going to sell.

‘Whether it’s books on whaling, or on heraldry, or children’s books, or military – whatever – if the books are good, and if the collection is interesting, then I’m excited.’

Kay comes from a family of avid readers, who moved to Melbourne from Adelaide in 1956. Soon after, her mother began buying books from an auction room.

‘The collection got so large we had to decide whether we were going to keep collecting, but more selectively, or continue the love of handling lots of different books and open a bookshop. So that’s what we did,’ Kay said.

The family’s first bookshop opened in Essendon in 1965, and two years later they had their first city store.

The business has remained in the central city ever since, holding its own even into the digital age.

‘It’s not the book business that is challenging; retail is challenging. I think that the important thing is to have a point of difference and a personal approach,’ Kay said.

In 2004, Kay heard people complain on talk back radio about iconic Melbourne shops that had closed down and she approached Council to suggest a program that would honour long-term small business proprietors.

‘At that point, Mum and I were approaching our 40th anniversary in business and I knew of a lot of other long-term businesses that were still in operation,’ Kay said.

‘So I thought: why not concentrate on what’s there, not what’s gone.’

Kay spent many years as Chair of the Lord Mayor’s Commendations program honouring her peers, and finally received her own accolade last year. And she shows no signs of slowing down.

‘Booksellers like us don’t retire. My mother was a business partner well into her 90s,’ Kay said.

‘I’ve spent more time in the shop than anywhere else and I just can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s a way of life.’

To find out more, visit Lord Mayor’s Commendations.