Beyond the Bookstore

“When we started in 1995, the term Hub City (which referred to all the railroads in the 1890s) had nearly disappeared from the cultural memory. We chose to re-inhabit that place, and re-envision our hometown. Now the name Hub City is on everything—the farmers market, the rail trail, a church, a food co-op, a barbecue festival, even the welcome signage leading into town. People think we run it all, which we don’t—thank goodness.” -Betsy Teter

Hub City Bookshop has become a beacon in downtown Spartanburg, but the ripple effect has been seen through the community and the region. Hub City Press’ books have been selected as Freshman Reads four times since 2012 at colleges throughout the South. The Writers Project has won the Governor’s award for the arts and been awarded three separate grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

They have also invested in the community itself by sponsoring public art and holding a four day environmental arts festival. Other projects have created a Music Trail honoring nationally-significant musicians from Spartanburg and a pocket park in the heart of downtown. The organization also spearheaded the renovation of two downtown buildings- the Masonic Temple (now home to Hub City Bookshop) and an old Nash Rambler dealership.

Hub City Writers Project also offers a writer in residence program designed to encourage new writers who are early in their careers and have never been published. Summer, Fall, and Winter/Spring residencies are offered with a stipended and a required 15 hours per week community service to be served at the bookstore, working events, or other literary projects in Spartanburg. HUB-BUB is another artist in residence program offered to visual artists, filmmakers, and theater artists pursuing studies in the field. As with the writer’s residency, community service is also an important factor, with all AiR (artists in residence) required to work on “community-based art projects specific to their interests by collaborating with other local non-profits and creating public art projects of their own design”. The Writers Project has also given away over $20,000 in scholarships to local teens.

These projects, with the involvement of the citizens themselves, are helping Spartanburg grow and thrive. As Betsy Teter noted, “Occasionally we’ll hear that someone has moved to Spartanburg because they’ve heard of us, or visited our store. That’s kind of mind-blowing.” 

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Hub City Bookshop

Spartanburg, The Town Books Re-Built

When people think of cultural centers in the South, most would list New Orleans, Savannah, maybe Charleston. How about Spartanburg, South Carolina? For almost twenty years, Hub City Bookshop has been working with the community to put the former railway crossroads back on the map through culture instead of trade.

“At Hub City, we put writers to work for our community, whether it is by telling the stories of Spartanburg through books we publish, creating a national literary center, or helping to rebuild our downtown,” Betsy Teter explains. Twenty years into the project, Hub City has been a success by any definition.

The story of Hub City Bookshop is a twist on the usual tale of a bookstore. Hub City’s roots are in Hub City Writers Project. In 1995, Hub City Writers Project was conceived by three Spartanburg authors at a downtown coffee shop. They decided to publish a book about the town and their first title, Hub City Anthology, started to take shape. The collection of essays and experiences struck a chord and a new publisher was born. Hub City Press now features voices from all over the South, but it is still the heart of Spartanburg.

The bookstore itself came to be in 2010 when the local bookstore, Pic-A-Book, closed because the owners decided to retire. The only other bookstore in the area was a Barnes & Noble, which did not actively promote locally published books like Hub City Press’ titles. The Hub City team knew it was “a life-or-death decision” to open a bookstore where they could feature their own titles. As it happened, then-Mayor Bill Barnet had wanted to attract a bookstore to the city’s downtown. Through cooperation between the city and the mayor, Hub City made plans to open up shop downtown. The community itself was the final step to make the vision a reality. More than 200 people donated $350,000 to the Hub City Writers Project to remodel Spartanburg’s Masonic Temple, originally built in 1928.

“Spartanburg, a former mill town, is indeed an unlikely place for a literary center
like Hub City to take root and thrive,” Betsy admits. But thrive it has. The store features a special section highlighting Hub City Press’ 70 titles (and 13 Independent Publisher Book Awards). They also pride themselves on an extensive writing and publishing section to encourage would be writers.

While it was initially created to keep Hub City Press titles at the forefront, Hub City Bookshop is a full service bookstore. Hub City Bookshop hosts about 100 literary events a year. In addition to book readings and signings, they hold several workshops, some hosted by literary stars like Wiley Cash, Ruta Sepetys, Elizabeth Berg, Jill McCorkle, Fred Chappell, among many others. From January to May every year, they host The Writing Show, a monthly event featuring a small panel of publishing experts discussing specific topics. In February alone, Hub City will feature events covering what it takes to write about food for a living, Coca Cola Capitalism, and several author readings.

Hub City Bookshop is able to succeed thanks to locals and even the authors themselves. The paid staff is small and additional staff is provided by community projects and volunteers. Their website notes that sometimes the person ringing you up can even give you an author signature!

It should also be noted Hub City Bookshop rents part of its space to Cakehead Bakeshop and The Coffee Bar. Books, coffee, and cake under one roof.

In May 2015, the city will come together to celebrate Hub City. The Hub City 20th anniversary festivities will run May 8-10. Friday will feature a “literary crawl” through downtown, ending with a launch of Hub City’s new title, Minnow. Main Street in front of the store will shut down for a huge block party on Saturday featuring food, authors, and free books for children. On Sunday, there will be a “fancy brunch” fundraiser for Hub City Writers Project writer-in-residence program downtown. The celebration is a reflection of all Hub City has accomplished so far and Spartanburg’s creative resurgence. It promises to be a great literary party with a lot of Southern hospitality!

Betsy extended an invite to everyone to join them for the 20th anniversary celebration. “As they say in the South, y’all come!”

Check out Hub City’s titles here

 


Amy Shamroe is Festival Director and Awards Coordinator at Jenkins Group. She has spent most of her adult life working in, with, and around books. Though she started her career as a bookseller, for the past eight years she has worked as a Jack of All Trades for the Awards. In her spare time, Amy enjoys traveling, sits on her local library’s Friends Board, and keeps a blog about what she reads (when she remembers to update it).

 


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