CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When Ann Saville made the decision to purchase the building space that would soon become Charleston’s beloved Taylor Books in 1995, the property didn’t look promising.
Capitol Street had become rundown with the arrival of the Charleston Town Center three years prior, depleting the small business economy. Dropped ceilings and abandoned radiators filled the interior of the future space of Taylor Books, becoming a haven for pigeons.
“It was a desolate place,” Saville said, shaking her head. “The space had been a shoe store and the opposite side was a card store. It had never been modernized.”
The properties, owned by the Morgan family, spanned three buildings-wide. Saville recalled the original copperplate handwriting on the deed paperwork, noting the builder’s decision to include the amount of bricks lain and the price in 1895.
“I knew I wanted to use both rooms,” Saville said, noting that a Book Seller’s Convention had advised using spacious areas for future expansion.
Saville then discovered the white oak flooring under the linoleum and tin ceiling under the drop ceiling.
“The tin [ceiling] hadn’t been ruined, luckily, but it was painted an ugly green and had to be scraped by hand or with a wire brush,” Saville said.
Saville’s friend Paula Clendenin, an artist, requested that the ceiling be painted its iconic red.
“It was very fun; there were lots of unexpected surprises,” Saville said of the restoration process. “We brought it back to what it was and added modern heat.”
Soon, her success became her residence.
“We took some time to catch on,” Saville said. “We sold the house in the hills, and the hardest part was meeting the rent, and if you own the property, you can’t kick yourself out. That was the deciding factor.”
For Saville, being within sight of her beloved bookstore provided ample opportunities to be involved in the day-to-day operation.
“It’s convenient to live with your business,” Saville said, pausing. “Not that I spy, but they know I’m always here.”
Despite the addition of Borders in the Town Center, Taylor Books consistently stayed afloat thanks to its faithful customers; Saville said competitors didn’t even make a dent…