Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi The second-hand bookshop may appear pretty inconspicuous at first glance. But once you step inside the door of Thrift Distribution and Books Trading, you are transported into the wonderful world of the written word.
Thrift Distribution located behind the Royal Rose Hotel in Electra Street is a veritable treasure trove catering to bibliophiles in the capital for a decade.
Back in 2007, Indian expat Z.H. Riyaz started the venture as an extension of his reading hobby. “I wanted to encourage reading in adults and help make lifelong readers out of children. But books in the UAE seemed to be very expensive compared to other places. I started with 200 books from my personal collection and donated by others. Today, after a decade, the shop has more than 50,000 titles in various genres,” he said.
Ever since he arrived in Abu Dhabi in 1996, owning a book shop was always his dream. “I saw many expats just chunking their books into the trash bin while relocating. Most of them were classics and bestsellers. Some people just bought books to fill up their shelves as adornments and discarded them after tiring of them. So I decided to give them a ‘second life’ and start a thrift store.”
The initial years were a struggle as he had to collect, select and sort the books by himself. But his policy was to keep prices low and this has seen the shop build up a dedicated list of customers. The shop also has a few gift and novelty items.
Two years ago the shop shifted from Hamdan Street to the bigger premise in Electra. Ten months ago, Riyaz also started a shop in Deira, Dubai.
“It has a splendid assortment of books, reasonable prices and sterling customer service. It’s a haven for book lovers in Abu Dhabi,” said Indian resident Deepa Shetty, who discovered the shop by chance.
“What makes this shop special is that they accept book-switching, giving me the chance to get rid of my paperbacks and replace them with hardbound covers. Most of the books I currently own are from here,” said Philipino Grace Cunada who is a regular customer.
The human computer
In 2009, Indian expat Victoria Pinto joined as the librarian and customers says she is the star of the shop. Victoria has never used a computer to track the books — she can tell exactly which book is where. “It is a gift I have,” said Victoria. “Customers are surprised when I pick out books for them in an instant. I have a secret hideout where I keep new books for me to read. Now the customers have discovered that and they go and check there first.”
Though Riyaz has ventured into other businesses which are more profitable for him, the bookstore is his passion. “Some people have even told me it’s their second home. Parents say they are grateful for the textbooks and guides they get here for a cheaper rate,” he said. “I plan to extend the branches and make a franchise to encourage the reading habit.”