This is my first blog post as part of the Stiletto Gang. I’m excited, thrilled, and honored to be asked to be part of this wonderful group of awesome writers.
I lived in Memphis, Tenn. (Home of the Blues/Birthplace of Rock and Roll) for about 18 years before returning home to Charleston, South Carolina in 2016. When I moved to Memphis, I did group sales at a family entertainment center. We were members of a local association called Metro Memphis Attractions Association. Being a part of Double M Double A helped me acclimate quickly to the area and visit all of the historic, entertainment, and educational attractions. I’d been a tour guide in Charleston, so this was right up my alley.
In Charleston we pride ourselves on being the first to do and have most everything, you know like the first female newspaper publisher, first golf course, first municipal college, first museum, the list goes on and on. For my entire life I thought we invented the Piggly Wiggly grocery store chain. Imagine my surprise upon visiting the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis and discovering that the former owner of the mansion started The Pig.
|My favorite Pig cup.|
Clarence Saunders opened his first Piggly Wiggly grocery store in 1916. Before then, shoppers would hand clerks a list and the clerks did the shopping, while the client waited for their order to be filled. When Saunders opened his store in Memphis, Tenn., it was the first true self-service grocery store. He laid out his store in a sort of loop that allowed for a greater variety of items to be visible and bought. Saunders received his patent for the self-service shopping in early 1917.
Saunders may or may not be surprised to see his concepts still in use since he was a forward thinker. However, here we are in 2020 back to shoppers sending in their lists to clerks who do the shopping for them and bag up the items, leaving the customers to only ensure they have proper payment when picking up their groceries and or having the groceries delivered directly to their door.
Saunders only had a couple of years of formal schooling and he became self-educated via reading. Which segues into the correlation of grocery shopping and bookstore evolution similarities, somehow, for me at least.
Amazon has only been around since 1994 but is the giant of the bookselling (and everything else) industry. Jeff Bezos has put many an independent, and quite a few big-box brick-and-mortar stores out of business. And yet, in the Charleston area we have five independent bookstores: Blue Bicycle (downtown Charleston), Buxton Books (downtown Charleston), Main Street Reads (Summerville), Itinerate Literate (North Charleston - it used to be a bookmoblie store, hence the name), and The Turning Page (Goose Creek). Plus, I recently had someone tell me that an independent bookstore will open just over the Cooper River bridge in Mt. Pleasant in the near future. Take that Amazon! (just kidding)
I enjoy visiting and purchasing from independent bookstores. I dig their energy, their book signings, coffee talks, helpful staff, and book clubs.
Itinerant Literate hosts "Get Lit Bookclub" where you dine at a local restaurant and the small plates of food incorporate the meals present in the book, plus you get a serving of wine with each course. They sell out monthly.
Buxton holds book talks in their store and in conjunction with the Charleston Library Society next door to them. Buxton is home to Tour Charleston where all the tours are book-based. (Full disclosure: I occasionally give their ghost tours.)
I’m excited to write books and have signings in these local stores. I'm truly hopeful they all succeed.
And when I plan ahead, a rarity indeed, I love ordering my groceries online.
Have you noticed this trend of returning to the way we were? In what other ways are we going back to the way things were done once upon a time?
You can find out more about Clarence Saunders and the museum collection at www.memphismuseum.org, and the Charleston Library Society at https://charlestonlibrarysociety.org.
To learn more about Charleston, SC independent bookstores visit https://bluebicyclebooks.com, https://www.buxtonbooks.com, https://www.itinerantliteratebooks.com, https://mainstreetreads.com, and https://turningpagebookshop.com. You can find a book-based tour at www.tourcharleston.com.