Tina Newman and Anne Hamilton had always dreamed of fostering a literary community in Johns Creek, Georgia. This year, the two book lovers were able to make their dream a reality by opening Johns Creek Books and Gifts, a new and used bookstore with an emphasis on unique gifts.
During the provisional stages of opening Johns Creek Books and Gifts, Newman knew she wanted to meet all of the different literary needs of her local community while also bringing something else to the table to make the store stand out. This led her to the idea to sell gifts.
“We have gift items that are not just sideline [merchandise],” said Newman, noting that the store sells a variety of candles, mugs, picture frames, and puzzles, as well as jewelry by a local artist. “They’re not the kind of gifts that you can find all over.”
Among the store’s carefully curated selection of new and used titles are also books that students in the local school district will be assigned. “We are actively going after school orders because I think that’s a very important part of the book business, to get good books into the hands of children of all ages,” said Newman, adding that they’ve hired a staff member expressly for that purpose.
Johns Creek Books and Gifts also emphasizes community involvement through working with nonprofits. “We’re going to participate in something called Blessings in a Backpack,” said Newman, in which the store will donate books to put in backpacks that will then be delivered to underserved communities.
The store also holds two monthly book clubs. The Fiction Book Club met for the first time just last week to discuss Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Penguin Group). Johns Creek Books and Gifts will also be hosting a Page-to-Screen Book Club, which has chosen Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto (HarperCollins) as its inaugural pick.
While there has been a steady interest in the store’s book clubs, Newman is looking forward to hosting author events to really put Johns Creek Books and Gifts on the map. “When you first open up, you think there’s going to be lines of people out the door and then you realize that first they have to know you’re here,” she said, adding that the building Johns Creek Books and Gifts is located in had previously been unoccupied for 10 years.
Right now, Newman is most excited for an event with local author Nic Stone, who will be coming to the store in October. Stone, author of Dear Martin (Ember), went to high school five miles away from where the store is located. She also plans to bring author Karen White to the store in the future.
Newman is also taking advantage of being among a larger community of booksellers; she recently attended SIBA’s Discovery Show. “It was very helpful to hear what other booksellers are doing right now. I was very appreciative of that in helping us keep moving forward,” she said. “I do think the independent bookstore is on the way up and I’m excited about that.”
On the whole, over the past few months Newman has been most grateful for her staff, who help with everything from organizing book clubs to designing her website, as well as her co-owner. “I couldn’t do it without Anne,” said Newman. “I don’t know how anybody tries to do this thing without somebody else.”