Nelson Mandela Bay’s long-serving book business starts new chapter

New-look Fogarty’s will continue to share memories with PE community

Fogarty's owner Teresa Fogarty checks stock at the bookshop’s new premises in Main Road, Walmer
FRESH CHAPTER: Fogarty's owner Teresa Fogarty checks stock at the bookshop’s new premises in Main Road, Walmer
Image: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

One of South Africa’s oldest independent book stores, Fogarty’s Bookshop, has turned over a new leaf in its 74-yea journey of serving Nelson Mandela Bay’s bookworms.

Earlier this month the book store moved to new premises after 25 years in the Walmer Park shopping centre. Forgarty’s is now at 212 Main Road, Walmer. 

The family business was founded by Basil Fogarty in 1946 in a basement shop at 59 Main Street [now Govan Mbeki Avenue], making it one of the oldest independent bookshops in SA.

Speaking to Weekend Post on Friday, owner Teresa Fogarty said the Port Elizabeth community had become like family, with many shared memories.  

“Fogarty’s bookshop is really a family business — biological family and customers who have become family,” she said.

“We have a lot of customers who have been with us since they were small children. They are now grandmothers who bring their grandchildren into the bookshop.” 

Teresa took over the reigns in 1987 while the shop was still in Govan Mbeki Avenue after the death of her parents, Basil and Eleanor. 

Before then, the shop had moved from 59 Main Street to the Library Building on Market Square. Some years later, it was located in Traduna Mall in Main Street, where it stayed for more than 20 years.

With the help of her now late partner Terry Impey, Teresa opened another branch in 6th Avenue, Walmer and later The Bridge in Greenacres. 

The bookshop moved to Walmer Park in 1995 and the other branches were closed. 

“My dad’s father had a hotel but I think he wasn’t interested in the hotel business because he was a bookworm. When Port Elizabeth needed a  bookshop, he was the man to start one.

“When we were children, my parents would take us to the library in [then] Main Street and we’d spend our Sundays there,” Teresa said. 

Fogarty’s bookshop has hosted launches of many political books on its premises and at the GFI Art Gallery in Park Drive. 

Reflecting on the bookshop’s years of establishing and maintaining relationships with the PE community, Teresa recounts the launch of Crispian Olver’s controversial book, How to Steal a City, in 2017 as one of the most interesting events

“That was quite an interesting one because there were a lot of [municipal] officials who lined up at the launch to buy the book to find out what was written about them,” she said.

“The book came out on the day and sold out before we even started the launch.

“The author came into the venue with bodyguards, spoke and disappeared shortly afterwards because he was obviously not very popular with [the ANC politicians] he had written about,” she said. 

Teresa, who runs the bookshop with her sister Rhoda Douglas, said they had changed location — they moved on October 1 — to attain more independence, among other reasons.

“A lot of people didn’t want to come into the shopping centre because of Covid-19 and my lease had expired, which was convenient,” she said.

“We’re more independent [in terms of] what hours we operate and what we can do with the shop in the new premises. It was different inside the mall,” she said. 

From next week the bookshop will operate from 8am to 5.30pm on weekdays, 9am to 2pm on Saturdays and 9am to 1pm on Sundays.

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