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VOL. 129 | NO. 57 | Monday, March 24, 2014

 

Love of South Main Led to Bookstore Launch

By Andy Meek

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The idea of spending their retirement years taking it easy doesn’t seem to have sat well with Jean and Clayton Andrus.

Because while Jean Andrus actually retired about 10 years ago and had been working part-time as a bookkeeper for a few Downtown businesses, and her husband likewise retired a few years ago, they decided to open a bookstore carrying new and used titles in the South Main neighborhood that they also call home.

“After two years of us being home together, we decided we needed to get out and do something else,” Andrus said about the South Main Book Juggler, which they launched at the end of October. “We’d played with a few ideas. My husband had put together some numbers and a business plan, and I looked at it and he said, ‘OK.’ We just decided a bookstore was something that wasn’t down here and needed to be.”

Jean Williams Andrus, left, and Clayton Andrus opened South Main Book Juggler in October after deciding the South Main neighborhood needed a bookstore.

 (Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The store, 548 S. Main St., has about 1,000 square feet of space that’s being used. And both the location and the kind of shop the Andruses are running are ideal, because they have strong feelings in support of South Main, and the husband-and-wife team are both readers.

Jean Andrus added that she has worked in libraries off and on throughout her life, and her mother is a librarian as well. She was in the midst of taking inventory at the store in recent days and had tabulated about 2,800 titles so far, and the goal is to eventually keep about 5,000 titles in stock at a time.

The store is getting there, with a robust stock of books slowly being assembled now.

Genres that Andrus said she’s keeping an eye out for at the moment include popular fiction, as well as plenty of biographies and history-related titles. Personally she loves fiction from the likes of writers like Ken Follett, who brings a novelist’s approach to historical events and periods.

“We’re trying to carry some regional books by regional authors and books about this area,” she said. “And we’re building an African-American studies section. A lot of times we’ll have people just drop books off, and I don’t turn them down. When I go out and search, I have a running list of what people are looking for and try to pick those up.”

The store carries other items besides books, a deliberate decision on the Andruses’ part with the idea that Downtowners could stop in for a book or gift without having to drive east. The store carries journals, some of which are made out of old books, as well as handmade and organic soaps, greeting cards and more.

Andrus said the couple felt that if they were going to launch a business anywhere, it would be in the South Main neighborhood.

Jean Williams Andrus and Clayton Andrus

 (Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“We felt like the neighborhood has been good to us, and we wanted to be good back,” she said.

Interrupted by customers, to whom she threw back a cheery, “Thank you – y’all come back,” she added: “What do I love about being out here? The community. We lived out east before for 20 years. We were in a subdivision, and we know more people in the few years we’ve lived Downtown than we ever did in our subdivision. When we started working on this store, the neighboring store owners were helpful with information, and everyone has just been so supportive. It’s just a great neighborhood.”

Clayton Andrus told the book industry newsletter Shelf Awareness that opening a bookstore has been a dream of his wife’s for years. He said that books are “in her blood” and that he’s always “in awe” of her knowledge about books.

The Andruses have considered using the basement area in their store as an events space, and they’ve talked about wanting to book regional authors such as Robert Gordon, author of well-known titles such as “It Came from Memphis,” for events.

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