Star Line Books opening downtown – Chattanooga Times Free Press

Star Lowe calls herself “a bookie, a good bookie.”

She doesn’t accept wagers, but she is betting on a new independent bookstore she’s opening in Southside.

Star Line Books, located in the Southside at Market and Main streets across from the Chattanooga Choo Choo, will offer readers new titles and a place where they can talk about good books, Lowe said.

“I want it to be very interactive,” the Chattanooga woman said. “Book people want to share [books] with people. I’ve needed this place.”

Lowe said the store will be customer centered, which she sees as a requirement in the face of big competitors such as Amazon.

“Tell us what you want,” she said about the 1,300-square-foot store located in the same building that holds the Blue Orleans restaurant.

The bookstore, with a soft opening today, will try to succeed where others have not.

Rock Point Books, one of the last remaining independent bookstores in Chattanooga, closed in 2010 after four years in business on Broad Street. Others, too, have come and gone.

Amazon, e-readers and big-box stores such as Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million have commanded the market in recent years.

In addition to Star Line Books, Barnes & Noble plans to open a 1,500-square-foot satellite location in the planned new UTC dormitory on Vine Street, said Kellie Wright, who manages the company’s college book store on the campus.

But, she said, the store concept will primarily offer UTC apparel and gifts to create a spirit shop.

Lowe, who’s investing $25,000 into her venture, said Star Line will offer books which the big-box stores don’t.

“What we hope to do is fill that need,” she said, and offer “the gems we love.”

Betsy Reed, Star Line’s manager, also said the store will be “a customer-friendly experience.” The store plans to bring in authors for book signings, as well as offer book clubs, children’s reading times and poetry nights.

Kim White, who heads the nonprofit downtown development group River City Co., said the Southside is gaining the residential density to support a lot of different types of retail such as an independent bookstore.

In addition to the housing already there, new apartments are going up at the Chattanooga Choo Choo and at Main and Market, and there are plans for much more.

“There are some pretty cool warehouses people are converting to other things,” White added. “The Southside is on fire.”

Lowe said that of the independent bookstores she recalls in other cities, they’ve been downtown and not in the suburbs.

“When I think of suburbs, I think of box stores,” she said. “I want to be in the thick of things.”

Lowe, too, cited the new housing in the Southside, with young urban dwellers moving to the area along with older residents.

“They want to be close to a good restaurant and a bookstore,” she said.

Lowe, 50, who moved to Chattanooga three years ago with her husband after spending many years in education, said one of the first things she did was look for an independent bookstore.

“I was trying to figure out what I was going to do to give back and be a part of the community,” she said.

About this time last year, she took part in a workshop on owning a bookstore at Amelia Island, Fla. After that, she formulated a business plan.

“Once the door is open, we can tweak and fine tune,” Lowe said, adding that she hopes to draw both residents and tourists to the store.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.

General manager Betsy Reed stocks shelves in the children’s section at Star Line Books on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Star Line Books, located in the building at the corner of Main and Market Streets, opens for business on Friday.

Photo by
John Rawlston
/Times Free Press.