CLINTON- When Debbie Amacker Tillman was growing up in small town Mississippi, one of her favorite things to do was read.
“We had a bookmobile which was the thrill of the week in Pelahatchie,” Tillman says. After her family moved to Natchez, not a week went by when she couldn’t be found reading at the downtown public library.
As the owner of Pentimento Books in Clinton’s historic Old Towne shopping district, Tillman says she still gets excited when discovering a first-edition book.
“A lady came in and had a 15-volume set of Harvard Classics from 1917,” she says, her voice brimming with anticipation. The popular liberal arts anthology includes works by Plato, Dante, Machiavelli and many other classical history authors.
Named after an Italian word describing when an artist “repents” and makes an alteration to his work, Pentimento specializes in out-of-print, first edition, and vintage books.
The store was opened in 2005 near the corner of Leake and Jefferson streets by Toni Wall and Tillman said the entire block has grown ever since.
Tillman, who owned the building and had a background in advertising, says when Wall decided to scale back and spend more time with her family, she sold her inventory to Tillman and arranged a turn-key ownership so the book store could stay in operation.
“She was just a great book buyer,” Tillman says. “She knew children’s literature and Southern writers. I hated to see that part of Old Towne disappear.”
The Pentimento shelves are stocked with children’s classics like “Goodnight Moon” and first editions by John Grisham, Greg Iles, Willie Morris and Eudora Welty. Other varieties range from classics in literature to world history. Recent books that Tillman has discovered include quirky and interesting subjects like Chinese foot binding, birding, organ playing and the chemical properties of concrete.
While Tillman admits she has a long way to go as a book dealer, her background in marketing helped keep business churning for the store’s niche customers.
Tillman expanded the store’s hours to include Monday, a day when most of eclectic Old Towne is closed. She also tries to promote the store as a great place to buy books for families with young readers (“That’s probably 20 percent of our business.”) as well as the town’s thriving Mississippi College population. MC student Moriah Chitwood is currently growing Pentimento’s presence online through social media websites.
“The biggest challenge is obviously people buying online and the convenience of shopping online,” Tillman says. “You have to keep your head in the game.” E-reader devices like the Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle, and Barnes & Noble Nook are triple threats for bookstore owners since they keep readers in front of screens and away from shelves.
Tillman says she hopes to continue turning Pentimento into an attractive and inviting environment for Old Towne visitors to gather and discuss everything from literature and philosophy to history and politics.
“(Old Towne) is just a really nice community of people and has a real front porch feel to it,” she says.
Address: 302 Jefferson Street, Clinton
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10 AM – 6 PM
Phone: (601) 924-2665
Correction: In the print edition and an earlier post, Debbie Tillman was incorrectly identified as a Millsaps College graduate.