Half the battle of many businesses is just getting people to walk through the door. Tina Newman and Anne Hamilton, co-owners of Johns Creek Books & Gifts, know this all too well.

They opened their bookstore at a Medlock Bridge Road shopping center 10 months ago and soon came to understand the struggle faced by many a bookstore during an era in which the convenience of online shopping presents a challenge to traditional brick-and-mortar locations.

Their solution: using their store as a community gathering spot. Perhaps most notably, Newman and Hamilton decided to take on some of the community engagement programs offered by two Fulton County Library branch locations currently undergoing renovations and thus unable to provide a venue until construction is complete.

“We heard the (Northeast/Spruill Oaks Library and Ocee Library) were closing for renovation, and summer is a big time for families to use these libraries for summer reading programs,” Hamilton said. “So, we thought it would be a win-win situation to provide a community resource – a place for the community to gather.”

Newman said she and Hamilton reached out to library staff “because we had the space and were interested in helping out. The people with the library were like, ‘Yeah, that’s a really good idea.’”

The local bookstore started hosting children’s events such as story times and “Reading with Rizzo,” a program that lets children spend time with dogs and build literacy competence and confidence by reading to them. The store also hosted a poetry reading and workshop recently, which would have typically been held at the library.

Claudia Strange, public relations and marketing manager with the Fulton County Library System, said it was great timing.

“The Fulton County Library System is so thankful for community partners like Johns Creek Books & Gifts, who are generously sharing their space with the library during our renovation project,” Strange said. “While we completely understand that a closed library is a massive inconvenience to our patrons, taking our show on the road and bringing programs to local businesses and community spaces … allows us to keep providing great programs and services, keeping citizens engaged during this time.”

Strange said the Northeast/Spruill Oaks Library and Ocee Library “will be open again before we know it, but our hope is that these partnerships will continue on even after our doors reopen, allowing the library to reach more people outside our walls.”

Hamilton said the first library-coordinated event hosted recently at their store had “great attendance. … Spruill Oaks publicized it and we publicized it and between the two of us, we had a great turnout.”

Hamilton and Newman have “always had a love of books and reading and had always talked about opening a bookstore,” Hamilton said.

It was a pipe dream, Newman said, that they worked together to make a reality.

“When we opened up 10 months ago,” Newman said, “we realized that as a retail store it is really hard getting people in the doors. That’s the bottom line. So, we started holding events. And this recent partnership with the library has worked out great. We’re helping them, and we also have more people inside the store who are interested in books.”

Sandra Ebert, who frequently attends book clubs at the store, said Johns Creek Books & Gifts is “fabulous. Great selection. Great prices. Adorable gifts. And they’ve got a wonderful and accommodating staff.”

For more information about the store as well as upcoming library events being held there, visit www.johnscreekbooks.com.

Johns Creek Books & Gifts is located at 6000 Medlock Bridge Road, Suite B500, Johns Creek.

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