SHEPHERDSTOWN — Kendra Goldsborough ended up with more than shelves filled with books when she bought Four Seasons Books this summer from Michael and Ruth Raubertas.
She also took on a community of readers, poets, writers and book lovers the Raubertases began building when they opened the independent bookstore at 114 W. German St. in 1991.
The Raubertases, now living in Illinois, were following a dream back then, Goldsborough said. “They had faith that Shepherdstown would support a small bookstore.”
Goldsborough started working in the store part-time 1994 when she was a freshman at Shepherd University.
She joined Four Seasons full-time in 2012 with a dream of her own. “It was always my plan to buy the store,” she said.
Goldsborough calls Four Seasons Books “an independent literary bookstore specializing in books of high quality to energize critical readers in a lot of different subjects. My books are finely curated for my customers.
“The reason we have survived as long as we have is because we have a loyal, dedicated customer base that believes in supporting a local bookstore and downtown Shepherdstown’s economy.”
In the late 1990s when Amazon began selling books online at discounts it changed the future of independent bookstores, Goldsborough said. “They could not compete,” she said. “Bookstores were closing in town after town around the country. We were forced to rethink our business model.
“Small bookstores had to start viewing themselves as community centers, become a reflection of their communities,” Goldsborough said. “I have an intimate relationship with people who have been coming in here for years. I want customers to feel like this store is as much theirs as it is mine.”
She said her “community” stretches beyond Shepherdstown to the Eastern Panhandle and beyond.
Goldsborough chooses what books to buy based on what her customers want to read. “This is an intelligent town with a core group of readers,” she said.
She also recognizes the business boost she enjoys from the tourists who flock to the town on weekends and the “rotating group of students and faculty from Shepherd University.”
A small bell dangling over the door sounds when a customer walks in.
The front room of the store holds the new releases – fiction on the right and nonfiction on the left. The front desk is on the left near the front.
In the middle room, customers find titles on nature, spiritual matters, personal empowerment and inspiration. Cookbooks are found in the middle room too.
The back room is home to a vibrant array of children’s books.
A door behind the front desk leads to the stairway to the second floor where used books numbering in the hundreds fill the shelves by category.
The big upstairs room has space for about 50 book signings a year, Goldsborough said. There is dedicated space for book clubs, a poetry club and writers clubs, plus discussions, classes and meetings including public forums.
Goldsborough’s staff includes Leigh Koonce, Elizabeth Sedlins, Katie Quinnelly and William Newman-McDonald.
She lives outside Shepherdstown with her husband, Kenny Goldsborough, and family.