Savoy Bookshop & Café
Savoy Bookshop & Café stands tall in downtown Westerly, Rhode Island, USA. This independent bookstore opened in April 2016 as a partnership between Mystic Books Inc and the Royce Family Fund. It has two floors of inviting book-lined retail space as well as a café serving locally sourced coffee, tea and pastries.
We were delighted when Savoy bookseller Stephanie Kruse contacted us last year with enthusiastic enquiries about stocking Slightly Foxed magazine and books. It’s been wonderful to see our publications on the Savoy bookshelves and in the hands of new readers in recent months. Please read on as Stephanie tells us more about life at the bookshop and shares some reading recommendations along the way.
Please tell us about your bookshop. What makes it special?
Our space is truly beautiful. Savoy is housed on the ground floor of an historic hotel that was built in 1888. It was empty and in disrepair when a local philanthropist purchased the space in 2013. He approached Annie Philbrick, the owner of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, and said ‘If I build a bookstore that doesn’t cost you anything, will you run it?’ Conversations like that do not happen every day! Annie agreed to run it and the space was renovated from top to bottom. Savoy Bookshop & Café opened in Westerly, Rhode Island in 2016 and became the sister store to Bank Square Books, which is about 15 minutes away. The wood shelving, creaky floors, tin ceiling, exposed brick, and the large wrought iron staircase really make it the perfect setting for a bookstore.
I also love how the store changes with the seasons. We’re right on the coast, with popular beach towns like Narragansett and Mystic nearby. Tourists flock to the store in the summer to cool off after a day spent in the sun or to escape the occasional rainy day. In the winter, Savoy is much quieter, and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee while perusing the shelves. The days leading up to a big snowstorm are my favourite because everyone in town likes to stock up on reading material.
What inspired you to become a bookseller?
I have a degree in Biology and a Master’s in Counselling, but I moved around a lot after graduating which made it incredibly difficult to obtain the professional license required to practice in the States. After a long, wearisome season of job hunting, a friend encouraged me to apply for something I thought I might enjoy, rather than only applying for jobs I thought I needed to pursue. I ended up applying to work at a local bookstore and I’ve never looked back. To my surprise, I’ve discovered significant areas of overlap between the therapeutic world and the bookselling world. Storytelling and curiosity are central to both.
I worked at a local bookstore in Birmingham, Alabama before relocating to Rhode Island where I now work as a bookseller, event host and social media manager at Savoy.
What are your all-time favourite reads and why?
I continually come back to Felicity by Mary Oliver (really, anything by her is wonderful, but Felicity is my favourite collection), Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, which has gorgeous illustrations and lovely ties to New England.
I recommend Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto to customers constantly, as well as Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Kitchen is short and whimsical, whereas Cutting for Stone is a gorgeous, sweeping family saga. Both are on my list of favourites.
Who would be your dream bookshop party guests?
A dinner party with Mary Oliver, Beatrix Potter, Ann Patchett, Maggie O’Farrell and Jhumpa Lahiri would be a dream. Oh, and Julia Alvarez. I hosted a virtual event with her recently and didn’t want it to end!
Can Nigel Slater be in charge of the food? I adore him.
What is your favourite bookshop anecdote?
Savoy has three miniature fairy doors that are built into our baseboards (or skirting) around the shop. The doors open and inside you can see three intricately detailed rooms: a cosy reading room (complete with a slice of pie waiting to be enjoyed on the table), a kitchen and a sitting room. Children often write notes to the fairies, and they are delighted to learn that the fairies actually write back!
Just the other day, two older women came into the shop specifically looking for the fairy doors. They were both crawling around on their hands and knees just to have a peek inside! It’s fun to watch people of all ages discover them.
What are your top picks for autumn 2021?
I am very much looking forward to reading Elif Shafak’s new book, The Island of Missing Trees, which is out in the US in November. Also, Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence sounds delightful. A bookshop haunted by an annoying customer?! I must read it.
I often order books that are difficult to find in the US from John Sandoe Books in London. A stack arrived just the other day with Marking Time, which is the second book in the Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard. I read the first last year and loved it. Incidentally, I discovered Slightly Foxed through John Sandoe.
The holidays are approaching, which means Nigel Slater’s The Christmas Chronicles will be pulled off the shelf and left on the coffee table to be enjoyed throughout the season.
What is your favourite Slightly Foxed publication and why?
I read 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff for the first time at the very beginning of the pandemic. I had just cancelled my annual trip to London and, like so many others, was seeking solace in books. I found a friend in Helene Hanff and I think it’s a must-read for anyone who knows what it’s like to love a London bookshop.
10 Canal St
Westerly, RI 02891
Tel.: (+1) 401 213 3901