Why One of South Africa's Oldest Bookstores is a Gem

Fogartys Bookshop
Fogarty's Bookshop | Courtesy of Fogarty's Bookshop
Gill Lange

When Basil Fogarty first opened a bookshop in a basement in Port Elizabeth back in 1940s, he had no idea that his lovingly nurtured store would become one of the oldest operating independent bookstores in South Africa. Over the years, family run Fogarty’s has firmly established itself as one of the city’s most popular bookshops, still giving the gift of tangible paper pages filled with the magic of words to happy customers every day.

In the beginning…

It’s no surprise that books run in Teresa Fogarty’s blood, given that her literature- and art-loving parents, Basil and Eleanor, once used to mingle with the likes of famous South African Expressionist artists Irma Stern and Maggie Laubser, hosting exhibitions and often trading books for paintings. Already then, in post-World War II South Africa, Fogarty’s had established itself as a mecca for art and literature lovers across Algoa Bay, forging a strong band of faithful followers who would arrive at the store to browse the quiet book-filled isles and select their favourites off the well-stocked shelves.

The early days of Fogarty’s

Although today the bookstore is no longer in its original location and has changed premises a few times over the years, Teresa Fogarty and her dedicated team still continue to stock the store with quality books that range from art, history and classics to cookery, humour and fiction.

Fogarty’s is also a great place for visitors to the Bay, where handy reference books such as Platter’s Wine Guide and Roberts Birds of Southern Africa can be picked up along with a good variety of travel guides and maps.

Surviving the digital age

Teresa has owned Forgarty’s Bookshop since 1987 and has survived various trends including the current age of e-books, Kindles and other digital reading platforms. While she believes that much of the store’s continuing existence is owed to the tangible feel, look and scent of books that just can’t be matched electronically, she adds that honesty and customer satisfaction remain her top priorities.

Fogarty’s today

Keeping it real

It’s the personal touches and human interaction that keeps Fogarty’s an old time favourite in Port Elizabeth and Teresa says that ordering and sourcing certain books for customers and book clubs has always been one of the tailor-made services that Fogarty’s offers. Honesty is another item on top of Teresa’s list and she maintains the simple philosophy of truth: if you pretend you know what you are talking about when in fact you don’t, then trust with a customer is lost and so is future potential business.

Fogarty’s interior

Onwards and upwards

Fogarty’s is now into its seventh decade of provided top-class reading material to anyone who enters through its doors, and the shop is literally packed to the rafters with just about any author you would wish to find. It makes for a fantastic couple of hours’ escape into the imaginative realm of words where you can smell ink on paper, stroke glossy paperbacks and lose yourself in the wonders of literature.

Where it all began… Basil Fogarty
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