After Blaes Green, Sarah Jackson, and Emily Lilley reconnected through a book club, it wouldn’t take long for the group of friends to realize they shared a mutual dream. “One night during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were on my front porch with a few other friends and someone posed the question, ‘What would you do if you could do anything?’” Green recalls. “With how drastically life and priorities had shifted during 2020, the three of us all landed on ‘open a bookshop.’” Eager to make this dream a reality, they hit the ground running, and The Book & Cover officially opened in November of 2021.
The three women have since enjoyed a warm welcome to the Chattanooga business scene. “Achieving a full year as a thriving independent bookstore, with a complete community of customers and friends and a full slate of wonderful employees, is the most significant achievement we could have imagined a year ago,” Lilley says. The bookstore quickly amassed quite a following, due – at least in part – to the welcoming nature of the space that Green, Jackson, and Lilley have created.
“We thought a lot about the layout and atmosphere when we were designing the shop, so in addition to our thoughtful selection of books, we have a space that is cozy, warm, and soothing,” Jackson explains. Throughout the space, there are a number of cozy corners for patrons to relax, complete with couches that lend a homey touch and thriving plants that create a grounding atmosphere. “We hope that The Book & Cover is a reprieve,” Green expresses. “That it feels like stepping into a comfortable old space and simultaneously transports you to a place you haven’t been before.” These efforts have not been in vain, as many customers turn to the shop like an old friend who’s always there to brighten their day. “The opportunity to make a place that represents this type of home for our fellow readers here in our hometown is the best thing about running the business,” Lilley says.
Additionally, the items that fill The Book & Cover are just as thoughtfully curated as the space itself. At the coffee bar, patrons are served locally roasted Goodman Coffee and pastries baked locally by Bread & Butter – even the to-go cups and paper towels are locally sourced from Jones Paper. From local art on the walls to the vast selection of books that cater to a variety of interests, The Book & Cover is uniquely Chattanoogan. “A bookshop reflects the community that it is in as much as it provides windows into other communities and voices,” Green states, adding that the trio seeks feedback from locals to ensure that everyone feels represented.
“We hope that The Book & Cover is a reprieve. That it feels like stepping into a comfortable old space and simultaneously transports you to a place you haven’t been before.”
– Blaes Green
The shop offers book lovers a chance to connect with kindred spirits, both in the shop and through highly coveted spots in their book clubs. “I like to think our shop joins other spaces in Chattanooga that exist as a kind of crossroads space – that folks across age, ethnicity, orientation, presentation, affiliation, etc. might find themselves sipping coffee and thumbing through books shoulder to shoulder or across the couch from each other,” says Jackson. For more introverted patrons, Lilley’s long-haired dachshund, Bertie, is also happy to make new friends.
The Book & Cover has gone to great efforts to welcome all of Chattanooga, so it’s no wonder that our community has embraced the shop wholeheartedly. “All of this comes together to draw in such a warm, bookish community, and that ultimately is what makes our shop unique. The community that has formed, the camaraderie and joy that suffuses the space, just really result in a special feeling,” Lilley says. Looking to the future, the trio hopes to encourage Chattanooga to read books and stay curious for years to come.