Tags: book store, books
Mary Martin was born in Norwood, South Australia on 20 July 1915, eldest of four children to progressive parents. She was educated at Rose Park, in a private school and then at Girton Proprietary School where she became a prefect. She enrolled as a part-time student at the University of Adelaide in 1936 and whilst there she was a founding member of the South Australian branch of the Contemporary Art Society of Australia, spent time with writers and artists and in 1939 won the Tormore prize for English literature. She lived an independent life, living in a cottage in the garden of her parentsâ€™ home, and earned some money by selling postcard reproductions of Old Master paintings as well as teaching, briefly, at Wilderness School. After eight years of study Mary completed her honours course in English, but was unable to graduate as she had not passed Latin I (a requisite for her entry into university in the first place).
Mary opened the first Mary Martin Bookshop in 1945 in the Brookman Building in Grenfell Street, selling books, prints and coffee.
By 1947 Mary had moved to Alma Chambers near the Stock Exchange and in this location remained for many years being a hub of intellectual activity in Adelaide. Mary expanded the product offering to include magazines and giftware. It was during this time that Mary's Own Paper, better known as the MOP, was created. This publication was essentially the shop's advertising, but was also filled with writing from various sources and became popular reading with the subscribers. With an increase in popularity, and many country customers regularly purchasing, the business moved in 1955 to Rundle Street and two years later to Da Costa Building in Gawler Place.
By this time Mary had begun extensive travel throughout India, returning with Indian artefacts which were sold through the shop. Again the business expanded into non-book product by importing and selling other Asian antiquities as well as teas.
As Mary focussed more on India, moving there in 1962, she decided to sell the business. It was after this that Mary Martin Bookshop changed dramatically, focussing on remainder books. By the 1970's the business was sold to the publisher Macmillan who went on to develop a franchise model which was rolled out across Australia. Not lasting long the franchise collapsed resulting in the remaining shops becoming independent. Hence Mary Martin Bookshops in Melbourne which are not associated with the original, Adelaide operation.
Until recently Mary Martin Bookshop has been a business wholly based in the city, but in December 2009 the shop expanded to a second site. This new shop, on The Parade at Norwood is only a street away from where Mary was born and is located in the magnificent setting of the Norwood Baptist Church, one of the oldest major structures in the area.