Located on S Main St. in Memphis, South Main Book Juggler pops out to anyone who passes by with its turquoise exterior and interesting knick-knacks in the windows. Its sign sports a pair of green and blue checkered hands juggling three books to mimic its name. Intrigued by the exterior and items in the window, you might decide to go inside. Inside, the walls are also turquoise and the store is filled with local artists’ pieces and so many books. The first few things you see are a couch to sit and hang out on, the check-out booth that has a white fridge door attached to it, and tables with purchasable art and handmade items. The fridge door was definitely my favorite and it is covered in magnets. I was greeted by Jean Andrus, the co-owner, who had just finished talking to a customer.
Jean and her husband, Clayton, opened their independent bookstore eight and a half years ago when they decided that retirement just wasn’t for them. Jean had been retired for several years but had experience working in libraries and as a bookkeeper. Jean and Clayton have a love for books, so, owning a bookstore was the perfect next step. Jean told me, “My mother's a librarian. So books and the bookstore just kind of came naturally.”
She greeted customers that came in as we talked, making sure to make them feel welcomed and let them know where things were. So, naturally, I asked what her day-to-day looks like. “I put in the sales from the day before and the deposits, and then I straighten books and order books and other merchandise,” she said with a smile. She also talked about her husband and said that he comes in in the mornings and she runs the store in the afternoons. Jean and her husband like to end their day with cocktails. At this, she laughed and told me, “When it's your own business, you get to make your own rules.” She said they can do this because they live in the neighborhood and can get home safely.
Running South Main Book Juggler hasn’t always been easy. They opened in 2013 and almost as soon as they opened, six months to be exact, the trolleys stopped running. The trolleys were one of the main reasons they picked the location of their store. It is right next to one of the trolley stops. Then, in 2016, the apartments across the street were closed down and a huge fence was erected around the property. It was rough for the Andruses. But, they kept going and they are still here eight years later. So, I asked Jean what she and her husband do to relax. She said, “We try to take a trip once a year. We just took our first one in almost three years. But, my husband and I think of this as more of a hobby. It’s not a hobby because we need the money, but we have fun doing it.” Having fun is always an important part of running a business, especially a small business.
Finally, we got down to the nitty-gritty of it all. It was time for the tough questions. Jean co-owns her business with her husband, but that doesn’t make her any less qualified or important to the business. I asked her if as a woman she felt that she faces more hardships than men who run businesses. She responded very quickly and said, “I am a woman who was formerly in a male-dominated business. So as a bookstore owner, I don't feel challenged by men who run bookstores. But in the business I was in before, it was definitely hard. People would call me on the phone and say, can I speak to the man in charge? And I would say, you're talking to her. Very often they hung up, but I don't feel that way anymore. But part of that may be I'm in my 60’s, so I've been there, done that, right?” I asked if she had any advice for women wanting to start businesses. Jean replied, “Plan, plan, plan.” Jean and her husband have been through a lot while trying to run their business but they are still going strong. It’s hard not to be inspired by Jean’s perseverance.
South Main Book Juggler is currently working with Give 901 to send students at New Hope Christian Academy home with a new book this summer. Stop by to purchase a leaf for their giving tree. All leaf purchases go towards buying books for the students.
Visit the South Main Book Juggler today at 548 S Main St, Memphis, TN 38103 and check out their Facebook and their Website. Are you a female small business owner and want to be highlighted on our blog? Reach out to The Profit Link today. Check out our blog to read more stories of business owners overcoming adversity.