An offer they can’t refuse

Owners of the Java Library, as of January 1st also from Linnaeus Boekhandel. From left: Sanne Fase, Lisa Fase, and Sharon Perlee.Photo by Nina Scholaardt

It was a pseudonym, they’ve been the “girls” of the Java Library since the moment the library opened its doors on March 10, 2010, the first day of Book Week. They should have stocked up on books in a hurry. At the opening ceremony five days ago, they asked the guests not to bring gifts or flowers, but to buy a book. As a result, it was loose, and the five safes they started with had to be carefully refilled.

Twelve years later, the shop on Javastraat has grown, and its reputation has been established. As of January 1, 2023, founders Sharon Birley (42 years old), Sani Vasey (44 years old) and Lisa Vasey (39 years old), who joined later, will become the new owners of Linnaeus Boekhandel in Middenweg. At the request of the departing owner Anja Duitslandmann, who had controlled there for eleven years.

Sani: “We hugged these girls.” Sharon: “She’s always been so loving.” Lisa: “I had to work really hard to become one of the girls for the clients.” Sani: “But we are no longer as young as we think, young men now address us as you. They think we are ladies.”

And it all started in football. Sanne: “Sharon and I were at WV-HEDW.” Allen: “Wilhelmina Ahead – Hortus Eendracht wins.”

Sani: “Then we went for a beer after playing football. Everyone was really unhappy about the jobs and the salary. Sharon worked at the municipality and I at the UvA arranged courses for lawyers at the law school. I had studied history and Sharon’s European studies. But we noticed when applying for jobs.” That no one really waits for us. On a Wednesday evening like this, after a lot of beer, Sharon asked me: What do you love most? That was a very honest moment.”

Passionate young entrepreneurs

More than anything, Sunny wanted a bookstore – and so did Sharon. They decided to think, take their time, and took a course at the Ondernemershuis, where young enthusiastic entrepreneurs taught aspiring entrepreneurs – present in several regions then, and now only in the southeast. Sharon: “It was very inspiring, there were fellow students who wanted to start an upholstery business, or a snack bar, or import crude oil from Ghana.”

Sani: “It was different from what we are used to. When we told people that we wanted to set up a bookstore, they often looked at us strangely. What are these two thinking? But there they said: what kind of bookstore will it be, what kind of face it will have Strictly, but in a fun way.” Sharon: “And when we got the numbers: They look good, but do some more math.”

A year later they had their plan ready. And it turns out that a library is needed at Indische Buurt. The manager of the shopping street at the time was aware of a building and associated it with the De Alliantie housing company. Sani: “That was the moment when my sisters said: Don’t you even have to go to the bank? So we put on our nice clothes. September 2009, and then came the recession. Iceland, everyone lost their money. At the bank they asked: Don’t you have a surplus-value house? No, Our friends were still studying!”


They had to take a different path. Their luck: Indische Buurt was a bird-watching, problematic neighborhood with an approach that included a whole host of measures and subsidies. That was exactly what the bookstore wanted. The municipality of Amsterdam guaranteed a quarter of the loan. More importantly, the municipality recalculated its plan by a third party. With this approval, they can get other loans. Their company was born.

Sanne: “On January 4, 2010, the whole pop-up was finished. Then we had to go book shopping, which we hadn’t done before. We listened carefully to the publishers.” Sharon: “And we also had a high school English class, it wasn’t that we didn’t know anything about literature. But you learn quickly. And because we started with only five safes and didn’t spend all our money right away, we were also able to respond quickly to demand.”

Then this is the “face” of the store. Sanne: “A bookstore where everyone can find a book to suit everyone, easy access, great place – and quite a lot in the neighborhood. Back then there wasn’t any place around here you could drink coffee, this was Badhuis and Ponteneur. So we came up with To: We make coffee, we bake cakes, also inspired by bookstores in England where that was really the trend. The decoration had to enhance the atmosphere with wooden cabinets.”

Reading upgrade classes

The store has grown steadily. And children’s books were added, so Sister Lisa got involved in the shop. She worked for years as a teacher in Nieuw-West and started out as a freelancer one day a week before finally making the final switch and becoming a co-owner. She initially had a Master’s degree in Young People’s Literature in Tilburg and is the interface for the Java Library’s collaboration with schools for reading promotion lessons. It’s been on the rise for two years, which is why Lisa’s friend Klaartje van Beek (44) has been hired as the fourth shop assistant.

The entire Fase family is also involved in Java Bookshop. Fez’s father is a driver, Fez’s mother is in the reading club and takes care of all the children who have arrived. Middle sister Diane has just entered, with the dog, at 145 Javastraat where the front door to the shop is (there is a second entrance at 104 Borneostraat). Diane explains, and makes cards that are on sale in the shop and designed an anniversary bag in 2020.

Sanne, nodding broadly across the store: “The Alliantie said a little renovation is needed. When we first came here, there was still an attic and still thatch everywhere.” Sharon: “There was a couple here recently. His wife said she bought candy here as a child. There was also a clothing store there twenty years ago.”

Biggest compliment

They were already considering expansion when Anja Duitslandmann of Linnaeus Boekhandel contacted them. Sani: “We found out too late that De Nieuwe Boekhandel was on the market in Bos en Lommer, where they had just managed to continue to collaborate. Then Corona came along and we were very busy with that. When Anja called me, I thought she wanted to suggest we move orders together.” I took her for a walk and she said, ‘I want to sell and I want you to buy.’ The greatest compliment you can get.” Sharon: “And one An offer you can’t refuse. ”

They will soon ‘shuffle’, taking turns on Middenweg to get used to it and learn. The staff there indicated that they also wanted to be on the Javastraat. There is no elephant in the porcelain shop, says Sani: “How do we experience that Linnaeus is also a bookstore in the neighborhood. It’s not the same neighborhood, of course, but there is a team of ten people who work very well together, know the shop well and have a relationship with customers. Five People over fifty and five people in their late 20s. Since we’re in our 40s, we’re a perfect fit.”

Lisa says each of them has their own strength. “Sani and Sharon get along well as friends and I and Sani as sisters.” Football is no longer played, but it is encouraged: their sons play for TOS-Actief. “But the feeling of the team is still the same as in the past. Sani is on goal, Sharon and I are on the right and left back.”

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