By Brandy Woods Snow
Photography By Greenville Headshots
“They can’t compete with online retailers and big box stores.”
If you could travel back to the mid-2000s, you’d likely hear this story from business analysts, busy predicting the eventual failure of independent booksellers. Why? Because they don’t offer e-book downloads. They don’t have national reach. Their stores don’t have a massive square footage, and patrons might not find the rock bottom deals offered online.
In short, analysts predicted that indie bookstores just wouldn’t be relevant in the future.
Boy, were they wrong.
The facts don’t lie. According to the American Booksellers Association (ABA), the number of independent bookstores has risen to more than 2,300 in 2017 with sales figures also on the rise. In 2015 and 2016, sales increased an estimated 10 percent and 5 percent respectively. The growth trend is expected to continue.
And so what if naysayers go on and on about how the indie bookstores can’t compete with the “big guys”? It really doesn’t matter because they aren’t trying to compete. What they offer the book lover is something completely different than what can be found anywhere else, because indie bookstores embrace diversity in their selection, scope, and comprehensive offerings. They champion local flair and a range of products, provide personal human contact and expertise, and foster a sense of community.
They don’t simply sell books. They create an immersive experience.
1175 Woods Crossing Rd., Suite 5 | Greenville
“Have books, will travel.” According to owner Jill Hendrix, that should be Fiction Addiction’s tagline because of the store’s commitment to hosting events, supporting local writers, coordinating off-site events and keynote industry speakers, and facilitating book signings for bestselling authors.
Previously serving as an editorial assistant for St. Martin’s Press in New York and then working at several internet start-ups, Hendrix decided to pool her years of experience into one venture—an independent bookstore. At its inception in 2001, Fiction Addiction originally operated as a used bookstore but later reversed its inventory mix and now carries primarily new books, gifts, and a select assortment of used books.
“We offer a very curated selection of titles, many of which we have personally read, and strive to get to know our loyal customers’ reading tastes, sending them home with books we know they’ll love. We also help connect readers to their favorite authors by offering signed books and hosting many author events,” says Hendrix.
These ever-popular meet-and-greet signing events have included bestselling authors such as Dorothea Benton Frank, David Baldacci, Chef Vivian Howard, Cassandra Clare, Christina Baker Kline, Louise Penny, and Eric Litwin. At Nicholas Sparks’ last event, more than 700 people filtered through the 2,000-square-foot store in three hours with more than 1,000 books sold.
Additionally, Fiction Addiction offers guided self-publishing services for local authors, writing workshops, and writer networking events, and supports local book clubs and writing groups with programming and meeting space.
Hendrix says her biggest challenge in the face of Greenville’s continued rapid growth is letting newcomers know about the store’s extensive range of services. “Customers of independent bookstores value quirky selections, staff recommendations, author events, and the ability to chat with employees who have actually read and loved the books. They can find all that and more at Fiction Addiction.”
M. Judson Booksellers & Storytellers
130 South Main St. | Greenville
Named in honor of Mary Camilla Judson, the first female principal of the Greenville Women’s College (now Furman University), M. Judson Booksellers & Storytellers follows in the footsteps of its visionary namesake. Founded by women, the bookstore is dedicated to being a critical component in Greenville’s thriving community through education, culture, and social interaction.
M. Judson opened its doors July 2015 in the Historic Family Courthouse building on South Main, featuring a carefully curated selection of new books, with a special focus on southern literature, cooking, and children’s books, as well as handmade goods from local artisans and other eclectic finds. In 2016, The Chocolate Moose Bakery moved into the café space, offering coffee, cupcakes and other treats.
“Our book selection and unique gifts make for a delightful shopping experience, but we also approach the business of books in interesting avenues beyond the retail floor,” says Debi Horton, M. Judson’s “event goddess.” “Our calendar is packed with signature event offerings, including Sunday Suppers, Page Pairings, and Book and a Beer events. We’ve also recently launched a traveling book club where we’ll put a literary twist on some exciting travel to great cities.”
The bookstore’s passion for the Greenville community is a vital component of their unique approach to the business, from greeting out-of-town visitors and recommending all the area hotspots to collaborating with local establishments to bring Greenvillians a diverse and flavorful product line. In November 2017, M. Judson entered a partnership with Furman University to establish a section in the store featuring authors with university ties and exclusive, locally-designed merchandise.
It’s this unwavering commitment to bring books, authors, and artisans to the Greenville scene that makes them a local treasure.
Horton says, “We regularly bring writers to the store to talk about their writing lives and we host local artists and pop-up shows for artisans. We believe live, in-person conversations with creative people gets our patrons thinking about their own creativity. There is nothing that taps into the imagination like reading, so it all flows together.”
Joe’s Place Bookstore
2 Williams St. | Greenville
Making Joe’s Place Bookstore a destination location was always part of owners Alix and Mary Bernard’s vision—a vision shared and championed by store manager Becky Hendrich. After a 2013 visit to Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar in Asheville, the Bernards reached a conclusion: this supreme bookish experience—one built around not just buying a book, but relishing the complete experience—deserved to be replicated in downtown Greenville.
On July 1, 2017, more than three years after the journey began in the West End, Joe’s Place moved to a newly renovated 1920’s home adjacent to the Pettigru Historic District. The bookstore features a wide assortment of new, used, and vintage books as well as a full service coffee bar that serves a special blend espresso made specifically for Joe’s Place. Wines from small, family-owned vineyards around the world can be purchased by the glass or bottle, and small food plates are made by Low Country Ladle and served in slumped wine bottles. Events range from author signings and readings to trivia, game night, live music, wine tastings, and more.
“Joe’s Place is different from most independent bookstores. In addition to selling fabulous books, we continue to add nontraditional bookstore events to our calendar. Customer service remains our true passion as we strive to make your stay at Joe’s Place so phenomenal that you’ll be compelled to come back and bring along friends,” says Hendrich.
The bookstore recently added a classic book club as well as a cookbook club in order to expand offerings and facilitate a larger forum for lively book discussions. Merchandise is reasonably priced for every income level and taste, and, for the Bernards, nothing makes them happier than seeing parents bring in kids who are excited to read and explore books. They have also committed to supporting local artists, featuring their works for sale.
“We’ve had so many Greenville natives and newcomers come in and meet friends in our store. With 10 rooms open to the public, Joe’s Place has ample space to hang out and socialize or cozy up in a quiet corner with a great book,” says Hendrich. “We truly want to be your living room in downtown Greenville.”
Mr. K’s Used Books, Music and More
101 Verdae Blvd. | Greenville
864.286.3000 | mrksusedbooks.com
When Kaveh and Mary Dabir came across a used bookstore in the heart of Oak Ridge, Tenn. in 1996, they knew that with a little TLC and some vision, the place could become a community icon. It did, and a little more than two decades later, the Dabirs have opened four more locations in the Southeast, one of them in the heart of Greenville.
“Mr. K’s Greenville is far from the scruffy bookstore where it all began. With over 11,000 square-feet of hand-chosen merchandise, our knowledgeable, friendly staff, precise store organization that enables books and other items to be easily located, and our ability to sell and trade sets us apart in the community,” says Dabir. “Because a large percentage of the store’s inventory comes directly from this selling and trading with the public, new items come and go every day, all day long.”
Mr. K’s sells and trades new and used books, CDs, DVDs, vinyl records, comic books, video games, game consoles, and books-on-CD. Affordable prices, a varied selection, rare and collectible comics, and a collectible book section devoted to first editions, signed copies, leather-bound volumes, and hard-to-find out-of-print titles ensures every customer will find something to pique their interest.
The Dabirs’ distinct philosophy that stands as the foundation of Mr. K’s business is to create a “home-away-from-home” atmosphere for employees and customers alike. They encourage the local writing community by hosting author book signings, selling local authors’ books on consignment, and ordering material for area book clubs and kids’ school-required summertime reading.
“Our close-knit atmosphere allows our frequent customers and staff to get to know each other, and our accessible staff is always ready with a personalized tip or recommendation, the opportunities for new reads and treasured finds ever-changing along with our selection of inventory,” says Dabir. “You never know what you’ll find at Mr. K’s!”
As The Page Turns
21 D Plaza Dr. | Travelers Rest
864.834.8100 | asthepageturnsbookstore.com
A retired teacher and avid reader, Lisa Nichols’s lifelong dream to bring her love of the written word to the community at large while also supporting the local scene was culminated in the opening of As The Page Turns in 2008. Her passion shows in every facet of the business.
Service with a smile means more at As The Page Turns than happily selling a few books. It’s about truly getting to know the customer as a person and a reader, understanding what they enjoy most, and helping them find a perfect match.
“We strive to know every customer by name and greet them as they walk in the door. When we know their tastes, we can offer personalized recommendations,” she says. “We have several customers who no longer even come in and browse the shop. When we gather a few books they’re sure to like, we give them a call to come pick up their ‘stack.’ It’s rewarding for us when customers trust our judgement so much and then come back in to tell us how much they loved our recommendations.”
With a substantial collection of books housed in the 8,100+ square foot store in Travelers Rest, As The Page Turns offers a varied selection of new and used paperback and hardback books, including a section devoted solely to local and Southern authors. Additionally, they also carry audio books on CD, movies on DVD, handcrafted items, greeting cards and gifts.
Sharing the love of reading is paramount. Special monthly sales and promotions are offered in a range of genres, and many days, shoppers can find a cart of free books out front to take and enjoy at no expense. The bookstore also caters to many local book clubs and relishes the opportunity to recommend favorite picks to be considered.
“We are lifelong readers and love to share that passion with everyone!”