Bookstore opens to scratch itches

There's nothing Tut loves more than to have his throat scratched. So, being the loving person that I am, every time I stop by Tut's Book Emporium in Mountain Park, I indulge him.

All Tut ever does is lie around, but then you wouldn't expect a cat named Tut to actually do anything, even in his own store. Katy Hair and her daughter Megan, a freshman at Parkview, do all the work.

Katy and her husband, Greg, were looking for something to do together in their retirement. Greg, a human geneticist at Emory, and Katy, a grant coordinator, researched hundreds of possibilities. After taking advantage of seminars and resources offered by the Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov), researching the demographics and consulting a CPA, the Hairs decided a bookstore was just what they - and their community - needed.

"In Gwinnett County, there are more books purchased per family than there are in any other county in the state," Katy said. "And when it comes to buying books, Georgia ranks among the top in the whole country."

The wheels were already turning for the bookstore when Tut, a rescue cat, entered the Hairs' lives. He blended right in with the framed prints of cats sleeping on library shelves that hang on the sky blue walls. And when Tut plopped down and made it look like he owned the place, it seemed only natural to name the store after him. Concerned about customers' allergies, Katy consulted with a veterinarian who recommended a high-powered air purifier, which runs in a corner at all times.

Some people ask, why buy books in a store when you can order them from Amazon? The most obvious answer is that at Tut's, you don't have to pay for postage, which sometimes costs more than the book.

Also, when you come into Tut's Book Emporium, Katy can fill you in on what's popular in the community. A current craze is reading the original versions of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.

"The old genre gives accurate descriptions of life exactly as it was in the era the books were written," Katy said.

But Tut's Book Emporium is just as much about community as it is about books. Katy has several book clubs going for boys, girls, mothers and daughters, and sci-fi fans, and can order sets of postage-free books at a discount. And she's always open to new ideas. Katy displays and sells her 82-year-old mother's quilts and takes orders for custom designs. Local artists display their wares. Jewelry from Greenwood Studio and pottery by Pam Koehler Camp (www.andsarahlaughed.com) are interspersed among the books. A portrait of Tut by Kathy Budka of the Lilburn Antique Mall graces the entrance.

The Hairs scratch Tut's throat and let him think it's his bookstore, but really, it belongs to the whole community. (www.tutsbooks.com or 678-206-0400)

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.