Turnrow Book Company takes renovated department store, creates look and feel of old European library

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Published: January 29,2007

GREENWOOD — LTurnrow Book Company’s name is evocative of the rich heritage of the Mississippi Delta. Owners Jamie and Kelly Kornegay considered different names and were inspired by an old photo they saw of rows and rows of King Cotton growing in the area. One year ago, the young couple took over the existing Dancing Rabbit Bookstore and re-named it.

Last August, they moved into the bottom floor of the renovated Fountain Building on Howard Street in downtown Greenwood. Kornegay doesn’t know when the old building, which housed the Fountain Department Store, was constructed, but residents share their fond memories of the store with him.

Asked why he and Kelly, along with daughter Sophie, decided to venture into the book business, he replied, “There was an earnest desire in Greenwood to have something like this. Folks here recruited us and that impressed us. It reminded us of what Oxford was like years ago.”

The comparison to Oxford is appropriate since Kornegay worked at that city’s Square Books for a number of years. “I learned everything about the book business there,” he says. “Square Books is a great store and an excellent model for an independent bookstore.”

Owning a bookstore is a natural for this Batesville native who’s always loved reading and writers. He had a double major in English and journalism at Ole Miss where he took classes from author Barry Hannah. However, owning a business is different from working in one.

“I was forced into the business side of the store and I find it interesting,” he said. “I had some hesitation about it at first but I didn’t realize how much I learned from Richard Howorth at Square Books. It was a fun job and I hated to leave it.”

He says the first year was sort of a testing ground to see what local patrons want to read, but business is good. “There are a lot of things going on,” he said, “and I hope people will come to Greenwood and see what’s happening here. There’s a lot to do and it’s great to see. There’s a lot of restoring of what’s here and that attracted us.”

Turnrow Books is a general bookstore, but the owners are trying to take a regional approach with cookbooks and Southern and Delta literature. They’ve devoted a lot of the shop’s space to those sections.

“There’s a lot of interest in cookbooks and books about wine in Greenwood, especially regional and ethnic cookbooks. That’s partly due to Viking Range being here,” Kornegay said. “We have a good section on Delta and Southern literature that includes history and books by writers from here.”

He’s even been able to stock a supply of two out-of-print books that are favorites with local readers — “Trials of the Earth” by Mary Hamilton, one the first settlers of the Delta, and the humorous “Dollar Cotton” by John Faulkner, brother of the more famous Faulkner.

The extensive children’s section has everything catering to babies all the way up to teenagers. The area is cozily set off in the back of the store and also offers puzzles and other toys that accompany children’s books. There’s also a good section of parenting books.

“There’s a lot to look at in that section,” Kornegay said. “We have children’s events with authors and illustrators there, too.”

Filling a need in Greenwood, Turnrow Book Company also sells music. “That’s a big part of our business since there’s no record store here,” he said. “We have a lot of the blues and other local favorites.”

The 4,000-square-foot space takes full advantage of the large vertical space, giving the store an open, airy feeling. There’s a mezzanine all around the store that houses a coffee shop and more book selections. Jamie Kornegay gives Kelly the credit for the store’s beautiful design.

“She had the idea to make it have the feel of old European libraries with the balcony, columns and wooden floors,” he said.

Part of the space is shared with the Mississippi Gift Company shop and the top floor of the building is being converted into apartments.

Special events are an important part of Turnrow Book Company. Book signings during the 2006 holiday season helped the bottom line. “We had a strong holiday season, thanks to the high profile people who had signings here — John Grisham, Richard Ford and Paula Deen,” Kornegay said. “We had great turnouts and support. We couldn’t ask for better support. People came from all over the Delta.”

Book signings and readings also take place in the shop’s café and will continue. Photographer Ken Murphy is scheduled for February 3 and Jill Conner Browne comes on February 15. A book club is presently being organized, too.
Turnrow Book Company partnered with Viking Range four times last year to have Turnrow on the Terrace, held at the Alluvian Hotel. Tickets were sold for the luncheon events that featured writers reading from their works. “It’s a quality event and we’re already lining up some for this year,” Kornegay said.

These bookstore owners are members of the American Booksellers Association and offer services that include special ordering and gift certificates.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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