Working in the City – Star Line Books
“Front list titles are very influenced by my ‘bookies.’ I know their tastes, and when I go to an event or meet authors, I always think, ‘Oh so-and-so will love this!’ They are so hungry to grow through reading, and that’s the coolest thing ever.”
When Star Lowe moved to Chattanooga six years ago, she searched for a favorite spot to haunt. “I moved here from a community right outside of Nashville, and it had several bookstores. Those were always the places I gravitated toward first in new places. It’s how I find like-minded people. So when we moved right into the middle of the city of Chattanooga, I looked for one in my neighborhood but didn’t find what I was looking for.”
As Star explains, in her first life, she was an editor. In her second life, she was an educator. And once her children grew up and moved on, she found herself looking for something. A bookstore, yes, but also something to do with herself. “This was around the time that the market was picking up again, and I thought ‘Surely someone will open one near me.’ But no one did,” she says. That’s when she decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I dove into researching and consulting a good friend who owned a bookstore in a different town. My husband, Shawn, was very supportive. We were looking for a space to buy, but nothing seemed to be available. Shawn was trying to cheer me up one day, and took me for my favorite mushroom soup at The Terminal. We looked across the street to this store front’s window, and it looked empty.” The pair walked across the street after finishing their meal and saw a sign on the door that said, “We’ve moved” – so they called the number on the sign immediately and leased the space that day.
Opened in 2015, Star Line Books was named, surprisingly not for Star herself, but actually as a tip of the hat to their neighbor, the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo. “It’s a summons. It’s telling people to take the Star Line (of the train) to ‘Come and be literated!’” Star explains.
Now Star spends her time immersed in the book culture she has created at her store. She researches new book releases months before they’re out, reads manuscripts by local authors, organizes author readings and signings, arranges children’s story time, plans and hosts book clubs, and attends industry workshops. She’s also a vendor at numerous literary events and fosters partnerships within the Chattanooga community.
This fall, she will be a vendor at a young adult festival hosted by Chattanooga State Community College and the Southern Lit Alliance.
While the bookstore is meant to serve as a community center, she also makes sure to keep it up-to-date and offer all of the most relevant conveniences. Customers can pre-order books, order online and have books delivered, or download audio books – all through the store’s website.
Ultimately, Star’s goal is to make sure that Star Line Books is exactly what she has always thought a community needed – a place to gather, meet your neighbors, and find common ground. Because of this, Star Line always has events going on. Mixers, readings, workshops, clubs, things for children and adults – Star Line is a place for anyone who loves the written word.
“The worst thing in the world is to read an amazing book and then have no one to talk about it with!” Star says. So Star Line is a place where you should always be able to find someone to discuss your most recent read with or your all-time favorites.
Star finds great fulfillment in building relationships with her loyal customers, voracious readers, and book club members. She calls this elite group of patrons her “bookies,” and they influence much of the stock on the shelves.
“In the early days, I chose most of the stock and relied on a few of my friends that I knew were serious readers. So, in a way, the earliest version of the shop was a reflection of me,” Star shares. Now, she stocks the shelves not just with new titles, but also with older books that have been wonderful reads over the years. “Those are our back list titles,” she explains, “Front list titles are very influenced by my ‘bookies.’ I know their tastes, and when I go to an event or meet authors, I always think, ‘Oh so-and-so will love this!’ They are so hungry to grow through reading, and that’s the coolest thing ever.”
Star knows the stresses of being an independent business owner, but says that when she connects with someone over a book, has the privilege to speak to an author between readings, or gets to be the first set of eyes on a manuscript by local talent, those are the moments that make it all worth it.