Coastlands Bookshop – 50 years of selling books and magazines

When the mall opened on 6 November 1969, Peter Siversen was the proud tenant operator of Coastlands Book and Toy Store. The year before, Ray Spackman, known as ‘Mr Coastlands’, approached Peter, who he knew through St John’s Paraparaumu Beach Church where Peter was Parish Treasurer, and asked if he would be interested in having a shop in the new mall.

At the time, Coastlands was the only shopping centre to “be under one roof” explains Peter, and the only one south of Taupo to open on Saturdays. “I thought it would be a tremendous opportunity.”
“Ray asked me what sort of shop I would like to run. I had been working with my grandfather since I was 15 on the Sports Digest and Turf Digest publications, so thought books and magazines would be good.”

Since moving to the coast in 1962 after his marriage, Peter was an active member of the Kapiti Community, playing rugby for the Paraparaumu Seniors for six years. In his first year 1963, he was selected for the Horowhenua First Class Representative Rugby Union which he played for three years. He was the first player from the local club to win the representative blazer. He was also a keen squash and golf player.

His grandfather, Albert Organ, opened bookstores on all the major railway trunk lines in the 1920s, so there was a strong family love of books. Peter’s interest in squash, rugby and golf prompted including sporting goods into the shop and having two young children meant toys were a natural fit too. So, the Coastlands Book and Toy Store was born.

The year before, Peter and his wife had travelled to Mexico, USA, Hawaii and Australia, and were inspired by seeing the shopping malls there. Peter commented in the Evening Post 5 November 1969 that Coastlands “is on a par with any [mall] I saw on my travels, and the latest overseas ideas will be incorporated into the shop.”

Coastlands was a very different shopping centre fifty years ago. It one of the first centres to open on a Saturday but with five-day trading, that meant it was initially closed on Sundays and Mondays. Costing $800,000 to develop, contractors included Brien Electrical, Cubbitt and Wells and Stafford Electrical. Tenants were described as having ‘used imagination and care in the planning for shop fronts and interior decors. This gives character and animation to the overall mall design.’ The new bookstore and toy shop had specially designed mahogany-stained fittings and a rich carpet of gold and brown.

“That first Christmas was incredible”, remembers Peter. “We had large toys displayed outside the store in the Garden Court area.” Also outside the shop, was a model Father Christmas, and a special letterbox for children to post their letters to the real Father Christmas. Peter personally replied to every letter on behalf of Father Christmas, enclosing a voucher for a gift.

The store also stocked office furniture, typewriters and Christmas decorations, and provided typing and reproduction services (now known as photocopying).

Over the next three or four years, Coastlands expanded with a sports shop opening upstairs, so Peter stopped selling sports equipment. Then Storkline opened up a toy shop, and he stopped selling large toys. Later, the shop was reduced by a third by mutual agreement with Coastlands management, who wanted the space for a new delicatessen – Tastebud.

In March 1979, Peter decided to sell the business to Basil and Louise Clarke (parents of Rob Clarke, the current owner who has run the store under the Paperplus franchise for many years).

Peter had been selling Golden Kiwi tickets in his store for many years (the forerunner to Lotto) and when he sold the book shop, was approached to become their general manager in Wellington, with a staff of 50. He did this for another ten years until Lotto took over from Golden Kiwi. He was then given the job of Instant Kiwi Manager replacing Golden Kiwi, finally retiring when he was 65 years old.

That was 13 years ago but retirement doesn’t appear to have slowed down the active Mr Siversen, who works out every morning, goes for an hour-long walk rain or shine, regularly plays golf and enjoys time with his family including four grandchildren. “I always wanted to be a grandpa”, he says, and in October this year, he will become a great grandpa.

Reflecting on his time at the Coastlands Book and Toy Shop, Peter says, “It was such an important part of my life: meeting people, regular customers collecting their magazines every week, having the time to talk to them with no computers, no phones.”

Many different types of shops have come and gone over the years at Coastlands, as the face of retail has changed. The days of the Gay Petite Babywear, Platt’s Furnishings, TV rentals at Kronfeld Hardware, Joleen Coiffure Boutique and Hickmott Gifts are long gone, but the book shop, started by Peter, fifty years ago, is still here and flourishing as Paperplus.

Peter is believed to be one of only two surviving original tenants of Coastlands.

Coastlands is celebrating its 50th birthday on 6 November 2019.