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A new co-owner for E. Shaver, Bookseller

Subheadline: 
Bull Street bookstore to continue operating under new partnership between longtime owner and employee

  • Photos by Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News Esther Shaver, E. Shaver, Bookseller, is retiring and Jessica Osborne, above, a worker at the 40-year-old landmark Madison Square bookstore, has been named co-owner. Shaver has said she will still be in the shop about once a week. Osborne has pledged to ensure that Shaver’s legacy at the shop continues.
  • Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News Esther Shaver, owner of E.Shaver, Booksellers.

Longtime independent bookstore E. Shaver, Bookseller has been a stalwart of Madison Square for 40 years.

A new partnership between the store’s owner, Esther Shaver, and Jessica Osborne, an employee of three years, will ensure that legacy continues.

Shaver confirmed on Monday that Osborne is now co-owner and manager of the store she started in 1975. Shaver had initially put her bookstore on the market in September 2013, looking toward retirement.

“She loves books even more than I do,” said Shaver of Osborne. “It’s been my whole life, and she’s just the right person to take it over.”

Osborne said she arrived at E. Shaver’s three years ago with a background in retail. She said she was delighted at the opportunity to carry on Shaver’s legacy for future generations of book lovers.

“I remember coming into Shaver’s as a child and bringing my children here,” said Osborne. “I’ve always been a big reader and love books and bookstores, so it seemed like the perfect fit.”

Osborne said the transition should be rather smooth, though the footprint will shrink slightly from 12 rooms to about seven.

The Savannah Tea Shop, formerly on Broughton Street, will also be moving into the space to sell loose leaf tea and eventually cups of hot tea and light snacks for customers.

“We’d like to keep the same comfortable feel that we’ve had,” said Osborne.

Shaver, who has retired to Beaufort, will still be in the shop about once a week and plans to maintain a financial stake in the business.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to have become an institution, and everyone’s been really supportive,” said Shaver. “You get a little stuck yourself, and it’s always good to have the new broom sweeping everything clean.”

Despite the proliferation of e-readers in recent years, Shaver’s has navigated the complex waters of being a 21st century retail bookstore by staying true to its Savannah roots.

Its best seller remains John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and Osborne does not see that changing any time soon.

Shaver said they stopped counting how many copies they sold after about 5,000. The madness surrounding the book’s debut as well as numerous Pat Conroy signings are among her fondest memories of the space, she said.

Osborne said she thinks support for independent bookstores will continue among those who love the tactile experience of discovering new tomes and turning their pages by hand.

“Bookstores will continue. They may not be as big, but there are definitely people who are so happy to have independent bookstores,” she said.

“If they want to be really subversive,” Osborne joked, “they’ll come in and buy a hardback and pay cash for it.”

More Info

Breakout Box: 

E. Shaver, Bookseller

Where: 326 Bull St.

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday

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