One of Savannah's favorite bookstores is expanding into Starland to become 'locals spot'

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Outside the Gingerbread House on Bull Street, Savannah College of Art & Design students hustle by on their way to catch a bus. Coffee brews next door at Foxy Loxy Cafe, where visitors huddle around tables, studying, catching up or preparing for work. Inside the ornamented house, which sat empty for two years save for the occasional meeting or wedding, books now adorn shelves dappled in the morning sunlight as the day begins at the newly opened E. Shaver Starland satellite store.

The Gingerbread House feels comfortable and familiar, but also fresh and inviting — the vibe E. Shaver, Bookseller co-owners Jessica Osborne and Melissa Taylor want.

“This gives us a chance to be where people live, where people can park for free, where you can get a cup of coffee and hang out,” Osborne said.

In other words, a neighborhood.

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Expanding the store 

With a soft launch earlier this month, E. Shaver Starland aims to bring the same energy as its flagship downtown location but with more of a focus on gatherings, events and meeting locals.

“(Another store) is something we’ve been talking about for a while,” Taylor said. “If you’ve been in the downtown store, it’s very cramped quarters. There’s no room in there to do events, and it is also very tourist heavy. While we love our tourists for the business, it sometimes makes it difficult for locals to get in there, especially on weekends.”

In the past, E. Shaver has hosted events, talks and author signings at the Gingerbread House with the home’s owner, Jen Jenkins, being a staunch champion to expand the independent bookstore across the city.

“I’ve been looking at spaces, but never anything really serious,” Taylor said. “It was always kind of a pipe dream.”

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Osborne said Jenkins came to the two of them a few years back to propose making something happen at the Gingerbread House space. After a string of successful events, coupled with a global pandemic, the idea of a storefront started to percolate in the three women's heads.

“At this point, it’s a good start for us and we’re really happy to be in a neighborhood,” Osborne said. “I’ve ended up working over here a lot of the time because of how many people live right around the corner and they bring their kids in, and it’s just really nice.”

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Feeling at home 

When you enter the new Starland bookshop, there’s an immediate swell of nostalgia. A hallway draped with book bags and other literary swag leads into the main room lined with bookshelves that immediately transport you with the distinct smell of paper, print and binding.

The selection at this store is a smaller, much more curated collection than found at the downtown store, Taylor said, but expect the offerings to expand and change as the months progress.

“Right now, it’s really kind of dependent upon what this area wants to see here. It wasn’t aimed to be a tourist location as much,” Taylor said. “We don’t have all the Savannah books here because we have those all at our downtown shop. This is more of a general selection of things.”

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

“We’ve already had people having us bring things over from the other store and doing special orders from here,” Osborne interjected. “There’s a large restaurant community in this area, so we’d like to do a bigger cookbook section, but really cater to what people want here.”

Along with the books and large tables begging for a hideaway afternoon of working, the store also features a selection of Foxy brand coffee and treats in the back. With Jenkins and Foxy involved in the business, Taylor said it allows them to not worry about alcohol licensing and other paperwork as that’s been handled.

“It’s a win-win for both of us when we have events,” she said.

Most importantly though, the two women hope the store will become a beacon for the local writing community to congregate, host events and cultivate at. “The writing community in Savannah is very strong and some of them have already embraced and started coming in here, too,” Taylor said.

It will also house E. Shaver's monthly book clubs and other groups that need a quiet place to work. “There’s a crossword puzzle group that wants to meet in here, and they like to sit together and do crosswords quietly,” Osborne added.

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Mainly, Taylor said, this offers them a chance to get more creative with how they grow the business. “With the other shop, we have to be very creative in our use of space because it’s limited. So basically, every square inch is devoted to something, but this is a chance for us to envision something from the ground up and really see it come together.”

Outside the familiar locations downtown, Savannah lacks options for books south of downtown except for Barnes & Noble at Oglethorpe Mall. “I think, because of the way Savannah is, we need both locations,” Osborne said. “We need our visitors, but it’s nice to be able to branch out here.”

And before you ask — don’t expect the cats to make the move.

“With (the Gingerbread House) also being a wedding venue, cats aren’t portable,” Osborne said with a laugh. “I’m sure people are not necessarily interested in having cats attend their wedding.”

E. Shaver Starland, 1921 Bull St., is now open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

Credit: Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: One of Savannah's favorite bookstores is expanding into Starland to become 'locals spot'