The word “homey” comes up more than once when asking staff and customers at Charleston, West Virginia’s Taylor Books to describe the bustling shop located in the capital city’s downtown shopping district.
“It has a homey feel,” says Aaron Justice, who works in the shop’s café. “You have everything here. The shop plays a big role in the community.”
And he’s right. Opened in 1995 by local entrepreneur Ann Saville, a native of England, Taylor Books is the epitome of an indie bookstore ingratiating itself into the community. The place has become a Charleston institution that only continues to widen its net with much more than its impressive selection of new and old books.
The café inside the shop offers freshly brewed coffees, as well as wines and local brews. Hungry customers can order up one of a variety of baked goods, lunches, and weekend quiches, baked fresh by Saville and carried down from her flat above the store. Meanwhile, an art gallery plays home to a variety of local artists. The shop is flooded with eager art lovers during Charleston’s monthly ArtWalk event. On Friday and Saturday nights, a section of the café transforms into a stage where local musicians entertain the crowd.
The basement of the shop hosts pottery classes in a clay studio, while a cozy 30-seat cinema underneath the store shows award-winning independent movies and documentaries and is home to the annual West Virginia International Film Festival. Add to that a variety of book-themed gifts, toys, and apparel.
All that aside, it’s still primarily about the written word at Taylor Books. The shelves are stocked with a variety of new releases, popular classics, intriguing staff picks, magazines, and what the store calls an “unsurpassed selection of regional works.” At the back of the store is a well-stocked used book room. Customers can drop off their own items to receive credit on used book purchases. Friendly, knowledgeable staff are quick to offer a recommendation or place a special order, promising quick delivery. A large children’s book section hosts a weekly story hour for kids, while book clubs and even a wine club have been known to conduct regular meet-ups inside.
It is a bustling community hub that almost wasn’t.
“It was a desolate place,” Ann told the Charleston Gazette-Mail in 2015. “The space had been a shoe store, and the opposite side was a card store. It had never been modernized. We brought it back to what it was.”
The shop, while modernized, maintains an historic charm that makes visitors feel instantly at home.
“Taylor Books is very homey to me,” says local photographer Dakota Burns, echoing Aaron’s sentiment. Dakota brought his New York-based friend, podcaster Sam Mazza, into Taylor Books on her first visit to West Virginia.
“It’s really nice here,” Sam says. “Long Island is cool, but we don’t have anything like this.”
As Aaron notes, Taylor Books has indeed become a staple in downtown Charleston – a place for locals and visitors to come, hang out, meet new and old friends, work on projects, or simply learn something new.
Taylor Books is located at 226 Capitol Street in Charleston, West Virginia. Open daily.
For more about Taylor Books and other West Virginia bookstores, pick up a copy of Bookstore Explorer: West Virginia.