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Gentle Bach permeates Parsons Books and Music on Wellington’s Lambton Quay. A few weeks ago, closing sale crowds made the place a madhouse but within days only a few customers remained to browse the little that was left, saddened by the empty shelves.

Parsons Tamsin Grigg Bookseller Years

Tamsin Grigg, bookseller for 7 years. She was once surrounded by laden shelves - but no more.

In its various manifestations, Parsons Books and Music has been a cultural landmark in the Capital since 1948. Russian composer Igor Stravinsky called it ‘the most beautiful bookshop in the world’. Roy Parsons set up the shop and it moved to its present position in 1958. Julian Parsons joined his father in the shop 54 years ago and his sister Beatrice later.


Julian and Beatrice Parsons.

Roy Parsons friend, the famous modernist architect Ernst Plischke, designed the shop including the elegant curved staircase running up to the balcony coffee lounge, once run by Harry Seresin, one of a group of cultured Europeans and literati who gathered in the coffee shop.


The staircase designed by Ernst Plischke is still a drawcard for architectrural students.

Music, in the form of vinyl records in the 70s and CDs in the 80s gave the shop a new lease of life, at their height Parsons stocked about 17,000 CDs but in the internet age young people are turning away from CDs.


Coffee and culture.

No one wants to buy a bookshop in the internet age and both Julian and his younger sister Beatrice are ready to pursue less onerous and tiring interests. So it’s the end for an institution thoroughly woven into Wellington’s cultural landscape. Spectrum’s Jack Perkins talks with Julian Parsons and his sister Beatrice and long-time customers give their response to the closure.