Bookstore Explorer: West Virginia Revisited
After a year of traveling West Virginia and visiting its many independent bookshops – talking to booksellers, writers, customers, and gathering the unique story of each shop – Bookstore Explorer: West Virginia was released into the world in December 2019 as a celebration of the Mountain State’s thriving indie bookshop culture. In addition to profiling each shop in the state, the book features contributions from many familiar faces in the state’s literary and bookstore scene, discussing what indie shops mean to them and to society. A few months after its release, COVID-19 happened and changed everything.
The pandemic has led to multiple changes in the state’s bookstore landscape. We’ve lost some shops and, I’m happy to report, have welcomed others. So here is an update to the book’s content.
- Fuzzy Dog Books & Music in Charles Town moved to a new and larger location across town. It’s now a multi-level shop located at 201 E. Washington Street.
- J&M’s Used Bookstore has continued to grow and to embrace its gaming and escape room offerings. It’s now called J&M Books & Play.
- Kerri’s Korner Bookstore in Fairmont was an early victim of the pandemic, closing its doors in early 2020.
- Paperback Palace in Vienna announced its closure in early 2022.
- Michael Esposito, owner of Stratton Street Bookstore in Logan, passed away in April 2022. The shop did not reopen under new ownership.
- Treasures Galore inside the Milton Flea Market announced its closure in early 2023.
- Taylor Books in Charleston changed owners in 2021. Longtime manager Dan Carlisle assumed ownership from the retiring Ann Saville.
While it’s sad to lose Kerri’s Korner and Paperback Palace to the pandemic, West Virginia’s bookstore scene has welcomed several new shops since the book was published.
- The first shop to open its doors after the book came out was Wordplay in Wardensville, an adorable shop carrying a blend of books and toys.
- The bustling small town of Thomas is a great fit for Ghost Palace Books, which opened its doors on Halloween 2020 with an impressive selection of new, used and regional titles.
- A group of entrepreneurs in Wheeling came together to form the Wheeling Book District – three shops located within a few blocks from one another. The trio consists of the state’s oldest indie shop, Paradox Bookstore, and newcomers Point of the Heart and Vigilant Books.
- Argo Books in Buckhannon opened its doors in 2021, offering “a curated collection of regional literature, classic literature, art and design books, manga and graphic novels.”
- Buckhannon also welcomed Gaslight Books in 2021. The shop launched an online store with plans for a brick and mortar space in the works.
- Innovative entrepreneur Heather Baldwin opened The Book Hop in 2021, a Martinsburg-based mobile bookshop that travels around the eastern panhandle of the state.
- Barboursville is now home to Booktenders, owned by two former bartenders who share a love of books.
- Former bookseller Chip Smith opened the book booth Scapegoat Books in 2023, featuring an impressively unique inventory inside Dunbar’s Eclectic Goods Market.
- And I have gone from Bookstore Explorer to bookstore co-owner with the opening of my own shop, Plot Twist Books, in South Charleston in 2023.
So that’s the state of indie bookshops in West Virginia as we ease further into 2022. Given the changes to the original book’s content, you can currently pick up a copy from Amazon at nearly 50% off the cover price! (Selling a book about indie bookshops through Amazon is antithetical to the spirit of such a book, I know. I sign and mail the books myself, using Amazon as an inventory and sales management platform. If buying through Amazon isn’t your thing, send me an email to arrange payment through Paypal.)