— Beloved Shepherdstown book store continues to thrive under new ownership.
If you’re a regular customer at Four Seasons Books in (116 W. German St., Shepherdstown), you can probably recall a time you were looking for an obscure book from childhood, or the perfect gift for your cousin’s best friend’s little brother’s wife who you don’t know very well (but you think she’s into history), or a last-minute birthday gift for your twelve-year-old niece who “doesn’t really like to read,” but you really wish she’d start—so you came to the independent bookstore on German Street to ask Kendra Goldsborough, once-manager and now-owner, for help. And with psychic powers akin to the chocolatier in the film “Chocolat,” she retrieved the exact title you needed within minutes.
If you’ve never been to Four Seasons Books, you can find it on the first block of the two-block town, right up the street from the Sweet Shop Bakery, and next to Kome (formerly Kazu). Open since 1991, the store was started by Mike and Ruth Raubertas, and sold to Goldsborough in September, 2018, after the couple moved away from West Virginia to be closer to their grandchild. Four Seasons is currently one of the few survivors of the bookstore chain boom in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Now, places like Books-a-Million and Barnes and Noble have been taken down by the goliath Amazon, while smaller independent bookstores are starting to open their doors again.
When Four Seasons first opened back in ’91, it consisted only of the first main room. As the store grew more successful, it slowly took over more of the building. By 2000, it had crept into the upstairs space.
Goldsborough started working at the store in 1994 as a front desk associate while studying English at Shepherd University (then College). “I had always loved books, loved reading, and I’d planned on becoming a teacher,” she explained. “My dad ran a small business, and while I’d always helped out as needed, much like my kids do now at the store, Four Seasons was my first official job. I knew almost immediately that I had discovered (or stumbled upon) what I wanted to do with my life.”
She considered the option of becoming a librarian, but as more opportunities and responsibilities were presented to Goldsborough at Four Seasons, she was ready and willing to take them on. “I toyed around with the idea of getting my MLS,” she said of those early years. “Becoming a librarian would have been the responsible choice, but I love the challenges and day-to-day pace of retail. Additionally, the store gave me the flexibility to travel and pursue personal interests. More importantly, it provided a solid community.”
Eventually, Goldsborough took on the role of children’s book buyer and manager, and started hosting regular story-time sessions with Crystal Brown. She moved the children’s area upstairs and set about to create a space that encouraged a love of reading in the local youth.
“Crystal was pure magic, and there are not many children from that era in Shepherdstown whose sense of wonder and love of stories she didn’t influence,” said Goldsborough. “When my daughter was born in 2002, my time behind the counter was limited, but I continued to manage our ever-growing children’s department and create programs to serve a new generation of burgeoning readers.”
When Goldsborough’s second child started kindergarten, she returned to the store and assumed managerial responsibilities—this time, unfortunately, without hands-on children’s programming. Instead, she focused on creating a store that better served the general needs of the community.
“We increased our events schedule, hosting regular readings and book-signing events, and we continued to build our relationship with outside partners,” she added.
Community and Connection
Since assuming full responsibility of the store, Goldsborough has added more book clubs and writing workshops than ever to the calendar, and she hopes to add even more of these features over the next year. “I envision classes to feature in-depth book discussions, a philosophy salon, game nights, and more writing workshops … I want to provide space and opportunities for writers to create and share their work.”
Goldsborough has partnered with the new Center for Appalachian Studies at Shepherd University—to promote books and programs that highlight the Appalachian region—and the Society for Creative Writing, to give local authors the chance to workshop with famous authors. These two programs, among other opportunities, have distinguished Shepherdstown as a literary hub, with Four Seasons at the center. Not only does Kendra promote, but she hosts, actively participates in, and even plans events and workshops.
She explained, “I’m grateful every day that I get to do what I do. We need community and connection, and I hope that I can provide some small measure of that and perhaps a small token or two to inspire beauty and inspiration.”
To that end, active involvement in the community is what makes Four Seasons Books more than just a local bookstore that miraculously survived Books-a-Million or Amazon. Four Seasons and its staff are a major part of the writing community—not just as readers and writers, but as hosts.
Since taking over the shop, Goldsborough has continued her mission with the expansion of the local interests section for Appalachian studies—in addition to graphic novels, comics, art supplies, and stationary. When asked what else she has in mind for the store, Goldsborough highlighted plans to reintroduce structured children’s programs. “As our world becomes more frenetic and technology based, children need more opportunities to engage in activities that inspire a love of language, spark their imagination, and enhance critical thinking skills,” she noted.
That said, since taking over at Four Seasons, Goldsborough’s improvements don’t just comprise events and expansions. She has also given the shop a careful renovation. Customers who frequented the store for the last two decades experienced a bit of a shock earlier this year, when, upon arriving, they noticed the entire store painted, rearranged, and redecorated overnight.
“I’ve loved running the store for the last few years, but now I’ve had the opportunity to make it truly mine,” she boasted. “We’ve made some cosmetic changes that, I hope, make the store more inviting and warm. It’s a better reflection of my personal taste.”
In doing so, Goldsborough has created and maintains a home for growth and intellect in the community—all while fulfilling her own dream to belong to a place that holds knowledge and progression as a priority.
“We live in a community that is smart, literate, curious, and passionate,” she affirmed. “I’m honored every day that I get to play a small part in this.”
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