A place to dream.
This store is Polly’s dream. That I had a hand in helping her make it come to life gives me thorough satisfaction.
When we first met 5 years ago, we talked late into the night, every night, catching up on decades of living before the stars lined up for us to cross. Late one evening, Polly asked me what work dreams I had. I told her I was ready to again breathe life into my walking tour company, but more than anything, I wanted to write more books.
When I asked her the same question, she said she’d only had one since she was in her late teens: to create a bookstore in downtown Charleston--one that supported the writing and reading community--a place that stimulated creativity and conversation. Her eyes sparkled as she described a dynamic, beautiful vision. I loved watching how alive she became; I did not forget that look. When she was done, we both fell silent. She then finished by saying, “These days the expense makes a store downtown unrealistic; it is highly unlikely to ever happen.”
We married one year after that night. Two years later, after seeing off a large school group tour leaving from the US Custom House on Concord Street, I walked fast toward the parking garage at 1 Cumberland Street. The door to the gift store on the corner of Concord and Cumberland swung open, and although I’d been meaning to check with them about carrying the 4th printing of The Ghosts of Charleston, I did not stop. I was in a hurry. I started up the stairs to my car then stopped mid-way. Something pulled at me to turn back.
When I asked the young woman in the store about selling my book, she said, “I’ve had that book since I was a teenager. Yes, I am sure the owners would want it in the store.” She then said something that changed everything for Polly and me. “But, I’m sorry to say, we are moving to King Street in two weeks, and our focus will be apparel.”
I stood still for a long time, taking in the fact that the location was the most perfect for my (then 19-year-old) walking tour company in the entire city. The building on the corner of Concord and Cumberland is next door to the US Custom House, the departure point for our school group tours for the last 22 years, and 1 block north of Waterfront Park, where our history and ghost tours used to meet.
As I walked out of the store’s main room, I noticed to the left a smaller room with lots of sunlight pouring through the windows. My skin tingled from the top of my head down to the tips of my fingers. “That’s Polly’s bookstore.”
It’s been a wild ride since then. We closed last winter to paint, erect bookshelves, slowly but steadily built inventory and set up systems to manage it. We opened April 1, 2016, purposefully doing so without fanfare. It was and always will be a work in progress.
I love when customers tell me how much they enjoy the look and feel of Buxton Books. How Polly set it up really is pretty cool…sleek, inviting, warm. But the physical aspects are not what explain its magic. The explanation comes from the fact that Polly’s dream made its way into the world—and that her beautiful energy and passion suffuse every corner of the place.
Julian Buxton, September 2016