JOHNS CREEK — Even in the middle of a pandemic Johns Creek Books and Gifts is committed to connecting book lovers and serving the community. 

This independent bookstore, which opened in 2018, is the fulfilment of a lifelong dream for owners Tina Newman and Anne Hamilton. The store specializes in books for students, young adult readers and book clubs, as well as carrying gifts, puzzles and paint-by-number kits. 

Community connection is an essential part of the store’s business model, with author’s talks, book clubs and other events drawing people into the store nearly every week.

“Our biggest asset to the community is the fact that we’re doing community activities,” Newman said. “Nobody can make it as just a bookstore any more. You have to be more, which is why we do the community stuff, why we work with schools, why we go after the business to business.”

As COVID-19 has forced many to stay in their homes, the bookstore has had to adapt. The store now organizes virtual book clubs, and April 23 held a virtual author’s talk with New York Times-bestselling historical fiction author Lisa See.

Johns Creek Books has also partnered with Blessings in a Backpack to provide food to children in need. The store is serving as a drop off location from Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with specially marked bins out in front of the store. 

See said while she was sad she could not visit Johns Creek Books in person, she was grateful the store was still able to host an author’s talk.

“We all need these kinds of connections because otherwise it’s very isolating,” See said.

See is the author of “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” and the “Shanghai Girls” series. She discussed her newest novel, “The Island of Sea Women,” about the free-diving women of South Korea’s Jeju Island.

“It’s been a difficult time for all of us to be so separate, but when we get on these calls, we are together,” Newman said. “That’s important thing because we all need people.”

For those looking for some entertainment while they are social distancing, Johns Creek Books offers over the phone orders and online and shoppers can do curbside pickup or delivery.

“The only thing I feel is saving things, even though book sales are down and bookstores are struggling, is that this is something we can do while we’re at home,” See said. “We can read, we can explore, we can visit different places by being in our chair and opening a book.”

Hamilton said it is interesting so see what people are in the mood to read amidst the chaos. When the lockdown first set in and people felt the need to check their phones every few minutes, many found it hard to get into a book or were just looking for some “mind candy,” she said.

“Now that the panic is transitioning to boredom, you may go for a different kind of book,” Hamilton said. “I know with the last book I finished reading, I didn’t even think about the pandemic.”

Newman said the store is grateful for its loyal customers who continue to shop.

“It’s hard enough to try to make a small business work in the best of times,” Newman said. “With all that’s going on now, it’s a struggle. We’re worried. We don’t want to go anywhere.”

While small businesses are struggling, Hamilton and Newman have not let that stop them from serving those more in need. Blessings in a Backpack works to feed students that receive free lunch at school over the weekend. With schools closed, the group is now working to help feed those families throughout the week.

The group accepts non-expired foods like rice, beans, canned food, dried pasta and sauce, bread, cereal, oatmeal, fruit snacks, crackers, granola bars and produce with a longer shelf such as like potatoes, onions, carrots, apples and oranges.

Johns Creek Books will be accepting additional goods on specific dates.  

April 30 - May 6: Dairy, such as half-gallons of milk, butter or eggs. Only during business hours

May 7 - May 13: Toiletries, like shampoo, toothpaste, bar soap or toothbrushes

May 14 - May 20: Household goods, such as laundry soap, dish soap, trash bags, toilet paper and paper towels

“We have had so much success with the food being dropped off,” Newman said. “We’ll keep doing the best we can and helping those we can.”

This is not the first time Johns Creek Books has stepped up to give back to the community. Last year, when both public libraries in Johns Creek closed for renovations, the bookstore became home to much of the libraries’ summer programing, hosting classes like yoga, story time, anime club and the PAWS reading program.  

Johns Creek Books is at 6000 Medlock Bridge Road, Suite B500. For more information on virtual events, visit johnscreekbooks.com.

The store can be reached at (770) 696-9999 or johnscreekbooks@gmail.com. For more information about Blessings in a Backpack, email northfultoncares@gmail.com

Carson Cook is an Editor with Appen Media Group and covers Johns Creek, Dunwoody and Fulton County.

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