More Than a Bookstore
In the heart of downtown Charleston, Taylor Books is a beloved bookstore with a big focus on culture and community.
Sixteen years ago, the average person hardly considered downtown Charleston a viable option for home or business, but Ann Saville is hardly average. In 1995, she purchased a historic building on Capitol Street in need of some serious tender loving care, and she created what has since become a full-service bookstore, espresso bar, and art hot spot that helped to change the face of downtown. “The idea of opening a bookstore never occurred to me until it occurred to me,” Ann says, with a laugh.
At the time, Charleston was without any place to buy books apart from the big-box retail stores. Ann often visited her children in Lexington, Kentucky, and found herself a frequent shopper at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, a large, independent bookstore focused on local authors. Feeling inspired, she found a place in the heart of Charleston—a building that at the outset wasn’t easy on the eyes. “Some walls were missing and pigeons were flying in and out,” she says. Yet, Ann was determined to restore the space. Brick arches were revealed, tin ceilings were uncovered, and beautiful oak floors were refinished to their original luster.
Patrons at Taylor Books mill about leisurely, perusing titles in a laid-back atmosphere where independent bookseller recommendations, fiction, poetry, and everything in between are artfully arranged. A well-loved children’s section proves that even a younger population is reading, and a large West Virginia area showcases regional books. “Taylor Books has been the staple of downtown Charleston for years. They differentiate themselves by focusing on live entertainment, special events, and providing superior customer service in an atmosphere that makes you feel very comfortable,” says Charleston resident Chris Garnes.
Unique gifts and hard-to-find books are also within reach at this store, as special orders of even rare and out-of-print books are a welcome request. “We have access to more than two million titles, and can get any book within a day or two,” says store manager Jennifer Waggener. The store also offers plenty of fun stationery and hip greeting cards. It is more than all right to laugh out loud after reading each one; in fact, it’s encouraged, and it isn’t uncommon to see a group of professionals stop in the store after work to do just that.
The bookstore also houses a café with a full-service espresso bar that lures potential customers in with its signature scent of regional roastery Mattie’s Mountain Mud. With the exception of cupcakes from For Goodness Cakes, all of the café’s offerings—from scones to muffins, salads to sandwiches—are made by Ann, who rises each morning at 5:45 to ensure the counter is stocked fresh. With free Wi-Fi, the café is a hot spot for area students, businesspeople, and leisurely Web browsers grabbing lunch or simply hanging out.
An Annex Gallery, located behind the checkout counter, showcases local and regional art, further solidifying that Taylor Books is quickly becoming one of the area’s premiere creative centers. Currently featured is Raymond McNamara, whose varied works may even be explained by the artist himself on any given day, as he can often be found enjoying a cup of coffee at the store. The gallery has many more artists, too, with contemporary paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, and ceramics. Taylor Books also offers something for aspiring artists, with weekly classes in areas such as pottery and drawing for all skill levels. You can even hear live, local music at the store on weekends or enroll in monthly “lunch and learn” workshops that teach everything from estate planning to workspace organization.
Taylor Books is the type of place that beckons you back. It has a patina that is worn and comfortable like a favorite book. Frequent patron Bob Paulson says, “Taylor Books provides a necessary source for cultural activities in the community. You may go in for books, but you’re suddenly drawn into the art gallery or interested in taking a class. There is no such thing as a short trip to Taylor Books.”
Taylor Books, 226 Capitol Street, Charleston, WV 25301; 304.342.1461