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This Southern Bookstore Owner is Big on Local Dining

annie jones

Annie B. Jones is living the Kathleen Kelley dream. You remember Meg Ryan, the plucky indie bookstore owner in “You’ve Got Mail?” Jones plays her in real life, only in the charming south Georgia community of Thomasville, where she owns The Bookshelf. Jones spoke to Beyondish about her passion for books, small business and the community she proudly calls home.

Since weathering the pandemic with a pivot to online, Jones is pleased to see her customers returning in-person to shop. “Our doors are wide open. We’re careful and wise, but we’re ready to be back to normal, whatever that may look like.”

A Tallahassee native with deep roots in the south, Jones is an ardent supporter both of small towns and small business. “We’re a brick and mortar store in a small town. Small business is a vibrant part of community-building. If we don’t support these places, they disappear.”

Jones, who may have a novel in her, but insists she has no plans to run for mayor, boasts freely about the people of Thomasville. She compares the vibe in town to the same great feeling exuded on Cheers (where everybody knows your name). “People here practice grace and kindness and pay special attention to their community. It’s a lovely, quirky spot in the south and I’m grateful to call it home and be a part of it.”

In addition to running The Bookshelf, Jones hosts the podcast From the Front Porch, holding forth on “books, small business and life in the south.” Below, a sampling of her local book and dining recommendations for the Beyondish Between the Pages Q & A.

the bookshelf storefront

Must-know breakfast spot in town? And your go-to dish on the menu?
Our booksellers are all big fans of Empire Bagel, a local deli owned by a former New Yorker. And as much as I love a good bagel (my favorites there are the French Toast bagel and the Pimento Cheese bagel), it’s their Cali Breakfast Burrito I order most often. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Best book to bring along for dining solo?
Whatever I’m currently reading, but paperback preferred. It’s easier to hold a paperback and eat! The last book I read while dining solo was Palm Beach by Mary Adkins, and I loved it.

Local writer everyone must discover?
Janisse Ray writes beautifully about this part of the country; you should start with Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, but Wild Spectacle is beautiful, too. (Honorable mention to Janisse’s friend Sue Cerulean whose book I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird was one of my favorites of 2020.)

Favorite chef memoir or cookbook?
I adore Ruth Reichl’s Save Me the Plums, and The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon is in a class all its own.

Southern writer who most captures or captured southern culinary traditions?
Hands down, Julia Reed. Southern food isn’t (or shouldn’t be) fussy, and writing about Southern food and culture requires a certain sense of humor, I think. Julia had humor in spades.

Signature cocktail to accompany the consumption of literature?
This is tough, because I notoriously don’t drink. I prefer sitting on our back patio with a Coke or an Arnold Palmer. (My husband’s the cocktail connoisseur, and he’ll be very disappointed by this answer.)

Anne Tyler wanders into your shop. Where would you send her for dinner?
Anne Tyler needs to go to Sass; she’ll love the atmosphere, and I think she’d love supporting a woman-owned business with southern sensibilities. Plus word on the street is one of their event spaces is haunted. I think Anne would appreciate that detail.

William Faulkner strolls in a moment later. Where would you send him???
Faulker needs something darker and broodier, so I’d send him to Liam’s, where I have no doubt they’d create a specialty cocktail just for him.

Favorite book for a 3-hour airport delay?
I adore reading in an airport. The last book I read during a layover was Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. I loved it so much that I left my copy in the airport for someone else to find and love, too.

The one dining experience in Thomasville no one should miss?
There’s so much good dining here, especially for a small town, but I think Sweet Grass Dairy is the place that can’t be missed. Whenever we have friends in town, this is where we take them.

Meg Ryan played the indie bookstore owner in “You’ve Got Mail.” Who will play you when they make your movie?
Gosh, this is hard, but I do love Amy Adams. We look nothing alike, but I think she could play spunky and tough, which I think are two things bookstore ownership requires.

If you could dine with any author, living or dead, who would that be?
I understand this is somewhat obvious and probably cliche, but I’d love to sit down and chat with Jane Austen. (Could Flannery O’Connor come, too? Because I think that’d be the best time.)

The Bookshelf is located at 126 S. Broad Street in Thomasville, Georgia. Have a favorite hometown bookseller? Email and let us know who we should profile next.


Ken Carlton

Ken Carlton, founder and editor-in-chief of Beyondish, is the author of six books, including "Food for Marriage." He was co-writer of "The Hunger" with Chef John DeLucie, a memoir about New York’s Waverly Inn. "The Hunger" was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. Ken writes the Man in the Kitchen column for Inspirelle Paris.


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