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Arty Bee in residence
Bob Burch, well know for his longstanding Arty Bees bookshop, is now enjoying life at Kilmarnock Heights Home
Bob Burch, well know for his longstanding Arty Bees bookshop, is now enjoying life at Kilmarnock Heights Home

The founder of the iconic Wellington bookstore ‘Arty Bees’ is enjoying his retirement at Enliven’s Kilmarnock Heights Home in Berhampore, while his daughter continues to head the family business.

Robert ‘Bob’ Thompson Burch, 91, is well known for the successful second hand bookstore ‘Arty Bees’. In fact the store, named after the acronym of his initials RTB, has held a prominent place in Wellington’s shopping scene for more than 25 years.

But it’s not just books that have made Bob’s life interesting. Despite suffering from Polio as a small child, and later loosing his foot, Bob didn’t let anything get in his way of becoming a flying instructor in the New Zealand Air Force in World War II.

“They didn’t want to let me in at first because of my disability” says Bob. “But I managed to convince them to let me have a go and they gave me a job. From then on flying was a big passion of mine.”

Bob went on to become an accountant, and then, after being made redundant in his 60s, he decided to take a different outlook on book keeping. He fondly recalls his decision to take up the challenge of buying and selling books in his ‘retirement’ years.

“I took the plunge and bought the business. I’d always been a fan of second hand book shops and when the opportunity arose to buy one I thought it was a perfect opportunity to fill a gap in the market.

“I never imagined that it would become the largest shop in Wellington, stocking over 130,000 titles including my own memoir. I can honestly say that I have achieved my dream!” says Bob.

It wasn’t until his 80th birthday that Bob decided it was finally time to retire from the book business and just enjoy his retirement. “I enjoyed many wonderful years growing the business and working closely with my staff. When the time came to retire I was delighted when my eldest daughter, Pippa, accepted an invitation to join the company. She has done a wonderful job of growing the business as my health has deteriorated.”

Today Bob is enjoying life at Enliven’s Kilmanock Heights Home. A keen opera singer in his younger years, he continues to enjoy music and singing, but especially enjoys day trips out in Wellington to important places from his past. “Life here is pretty good and the people are great. I love seeing how the city has changed in recent years. The other residents and I often reminisce about days gone by.”

Bob’s memoir is available from Arty Bees on Manners Street. For more information about Bob’s new home – Enliven’s Kilmarnock Heights Home, give them a call on (04) 380 2034.

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