By Gracie Williams

The Book Lady Bookstore is Savannah’s only independently owned, full service, new and used book store. This local treasure has been a staple in the Savannah book scene since its creation in 1978.

The Book Lady Bookstore was founded by published poet Anita Raskin, who began her career as a book scout; during this period of time, the locals nicknamed her “The Book Lady.” After acquiring a large amount of books, she then decided to open her own bookstore.

Joni Saxton-Giusti initially began as an employee. She took over operations in 2002 after Raskin passed away, and says that business is better than ever. She attributes this steady growth to tourism and the internet.

“We get so many tourists here in the store, and especially in Savannah; it’s an ever-growing, increasingly touristy city. They find us all kinds of ways on the internet; it used to not be that way. It was word of mouth, asking around town, and now they find us very easily online,” Saxton-Giusti said.

They perform numerous services including new and used book sales, hosting community author events and fundraisers, books on consignment, rare book sales and small appraisals.

The bookstore is involved with many local charity and environmental organizations that include the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Center For a Sustainable Coast, Clean Coast and various riverkeeper groups. Saxton-Giusti also works closely with the Wormsloe Foundation, and has previously served on the board of directors for the Flannery O’Connor childhood home.

The bookstore is also deeply involved with the poetry scene, and have been for many years. They regularly host events with local poets and work closely with the Savannah Poetry Review.

The Book Lady frequently hosts new author book events, but began by solely selling used books.

“After [Raskin] passed away, I decided we really needed to revamp the store and expand our services, especially author events,” Saxton-Giusti said. “That meant opening the entire new books business part of the store. These authors we host mostly have new books, so that helps. We order what we think is really good. Great fiction and important new histories; it’s been a gradual build.”

With an ever-growing business like The Book Lady, the thought of expansion is constantly on Saxton-Giusti’s mind.

“It’s always a balancing game for a business,” she said. “You have to consider your expenses. The biggest one being rent in an expensive real-estate area like this. You have to figure out if it’s worth it.  But there are many positives, too. We could have a bigger space for events, have more books. We’re always doing that calculation; is it time to expand or not? Right now we’re not sure. We love the space we’re in; it’s beautiful.”

Touching on the amount of local businesses in the Savannah area, Saxton-Guist specifically explains the significance of the local bookstores in the community.

“The appreciation for local bookstores has gone up. When Amazon started, and big-box stores were very popular, the number of independent bookstores around the country plummeted about 40 percent,” Saxton-Giusti said. “Then, slowly, the big box stores started fizzling out, Amazon lost its luster a little bit and people turned back to their local stores. They wanted that individual, authentic feel that catered to their specific book needs.”

Through the many struggles of being an independent bookstore in this day and age, the passion for books, and strong sense of community still overshadow everything, according to Saxton-Giusti.

“It is possible to survive and thrive,” she said. “It’s not like you’re becoming a multimillionaire, but it becomes a very rich life being surrounded by books, and meeting different authors, and people who love books. The community payback is huge.”

For a complete schedule of upcoming events, visit https://www.facebook.com/The-Book-Lady-Bookstore-43626198398/.