14 April 2019

The new Beyond Q bookshop: Food, wine, music and 180,000 volumes

| Ian Bushnell
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Beyond Q bookshop in Weston will soon be launching a major expansion. Photos: George Tsotsos.

Bibliophile and music lover Simon Maddox knows all about risk.

The owner of Beyond Q bookshop in Weston and former commodities futures trader and management consultant is placing a $200,000 bet on expanding the business he moved under less-than-happy terms from Curtin shops in 2017 when like many traders there, his lease was not renewed due to the impending, and controversial, redevelopment.

But as they say, one door closes and another opens, and more than a year after re-opening in the Weston Arcade opposite Cooleman Court, Mr Maddox can say the community has embraced the bookshop, cafe and live music venue.

Now he’s about to take the concept a step further with a liquor licence and commercial kitchen, and two entertainment spaces including a 15o-seat auditorium to cater for the 30 or so acts that play at the venue, and the others keen to come on board.

“What we’re hoping to do is bring a bit of sophistication to this area. My concept with the upstairs was a divorcee’s second date, where you can sit down quietly and talk with somebody you’ve met or alternatively listen to the live music,” Mr Maddox said.

At present, the two-storey premises has books on both levels, with the more collectibles volumes sharing space with a cafe and performers.

But an extension now at fit-out stage, will mean a new cafe downstairs selling food made on the premises, and when needed it can become a 150-seat auditorium. Upstairs will be a wine bar, cafe and entertainment space seating about 65 people, open til 10-11 pm, and becoming a weekend speakeasy with a back alley entrance. There will even be a mezzanine.

Mr Maddox gives credit to his new landlord who recognised the benefits of the development not just for the community but other businesses in the arcade.

It’s a long-term commitment with a 10-year lease but ‘it’s money you’ve got to spend if you want to keep on going in business’.

“It’s a big development particularly when people are closing down in the book trade. It’s taking a bit of a risk but I think it’s one worth doing,” Mr Maddox said.

The extension at Beyond Q is at fit-outstage.

The expanded operation will also generate new jobs in the area, with it already having about 20 full-time and casual staff and probably needing more with the extended trading hours.

Weston wasn’t the only option available but in the end, it was a no-brainer due to its central location, lack of a bookshop and its proximity to the growth area of Molonglo. There is certainly nowhere in the area that combines all three of books, food and wine and music.

Mr Maddox went into the book business with his partner Jenni Lawton, whose father owned Canberra’s oldest bookshop, Lawton’s at Hughes, then developing the Beyond Q concept at Curtin.

Now Beyond Q carries 180,000 volumes, including ephemera, with some pricey collectibles. One is a drug manual dated to 1648 that was owned by the then Archbishop of Canterbury.

It’s a business that for Mr Maddox, is not like work.

“It’s like inviting people into your lounge room and the number of people we meet and talk with and become good friends is phenomenal,” he said.

He hopes to meet a lot more when the expanded business launches in about a month or so with a special all-weekend celebration.

“It’ll be the party to end all parties,” he said.

Beyond Q’s IQ test of a front door.

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