Granville, Ohio is a college town about 35 miles east of Columbus and 9 miles north of Interstate 70. Denison University sits on a hill above one of the most charming main streets in America (East and West Broadway). A mix of restaurants, boutiques, the village hall, a couple of historic inns, and hundred year-old church buildings line the street. Wide sidewalks allow for outdoor dining during warm weather. All in all, it makes for a delightful destination for an overnight getaway, a day trip, or a break for travelers on the Interstate.
One of the gems of Granville is the Readers Garden Book Store, located next to the Village Hall at 143 E. Broadway. I had a chance to visit for the first time on Friday and had the opportunity to meet both the former and current owners of the store. Jo-Anne Geiger started the store twenty-one years ago when a previous book store across the street closed. We talked about how the store survived twenty-one years in a small town when many others have failed, and her answer was one heard again and again from indie booksellers. It came down to knowing the interests of residents and serving customers well and creating a friendly atmosphere. Jo-Anne recently re-married after losing her first husband several years ago, and started thinking it was time to sell this flourishing store to allow for more time for travel and other aspirations.
Last November, current owner Kim Keethler Ball, with past experiences both in ministry and retail, began working at the store. It was love at first sight, and when Jo-Anne mentioned plans to sell the store, Kim and her family began talking. Her son’s finance background came in handy in putting together a business plan. On April 1 ownership transferred to Kim, with Jo-Anne staying on to help with transition.
When I stepped into the store, my first impression was that this was a small space. Sometimes this translates into a thin selection of books focused around best-sellers. As soon as I began to walk around the store, I discovered that a combination of little alcoves, each dedicated to different types of literature, and intelligent curation offered a store where I found much of interest, and realized there was a selection to appeal to every age group from children to seniors, and a diversity of interests and identities.
Inside the entrance, I was met by a display of graphic novels headed with a drawing by a local artist of Edgar Allan Poe with a sock puppet raven. To the right is a section with current best-sellers along with books by and about persons of color, international authors, LGBT authors, feminist authors, and a section with an extensive selection of poetry, popular I understand with students.
Walking toward the back of the store is an ample section devoted to Young Adult readers. At the back right corner of the store is a delightful children’s alcove with a selection of classic and contemporary children’s books, and a play area featuring a table with wood toys that I understand were once part of the Ball household. Kim mentioned wanting children to feel welcome, and to provide a safe, interesting place where they can look and play while parents shop nearby. Books for older children are placed next to this section.
Moving over to the left rear of the store, the back wall features biographies and history, and then transitions around the corner with literary and contemporary fiction. There are also shelves devoted to special interests from science to gardening to cooking and art. In the center of the store was a small but thoughtful selection of religious titles. While the focus is on books, one can find a selection of gift items, prints, stationary, and games, tastefully displayed throughout the store.
The selection of books in the store represents a combination of new books and high quality consignments from about twenty different individuals. One of these includes a number of signed first editions of literary fiction works. Another focused around a selection of major poets. Everything was in good condition and a number of works either had mylar sleeves protecting dust jackets or slip covers. Consignments have yellow circular stickers on the spine with the consignor’s initials.
I was in the store on a Friday afternoon and I observed a steady stream of people coming in, most buying books. I overheard staff offering to order items that were not in stock. It was apparent that many came into the store regularly and were known to the staff. I also heard about a family new to the area with children who enjoyed the children’s area while the parents made a sizable book purchase, reminding me of many past bookstore visits where we all came away with books according to our interests. This is that kind of store.
Kim has put her own touch on the store from the literary quotes above the shelves to new categories of books, and the window and store displays. Book signings and readings are scheduled on a regular basis and the store participates in the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored monthly Art Walks.
Like the Tardis, this is a store that is bigger on the inside than on the outside. So much of this has to do with the combination of customer service and a well-curated selection of books for every age group and interest. This is a well-tended garden for readers, indeed!
Address: 143 E Broadway, Granville, Ohio 43023
Phone: (740) 587-7744
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m to 6 p.m., Sunday 12-5 p.m.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/readersgarden/