Curling up with a good book is one of life’s simple pleasures. A good book connects us with unforgettable places and characters that linger for a lifetime. Stories help us make sense of the world and ourselves. Mary Katharine Froehlich, the owner of Stone Soup Books, loves stories so much that she created a haven for people to discover the power of books. Froehlich uses the phrase ‘Spirited Bookselling’ to describe what Stone Soup Books is all about. The mission is simple but profound – to connect people with stories. Through bookselling, a rescue book program, a consignment program, partnerships with nonprofits, and participating in events like Books and Brews.
Froehlich hosting Books & Brews
Her love for stories started when she was a child growing up in the small town of Berlin, Iowa, located on the banks of the Mississippi River. The public library was the core of the town and a place Froehlich gravitated to. “Books took me from my little town to so many other places. I did all kinds of traveling through books. I’ve been a reader all my life, and the library allowed me to travel everywhere, even though I was there landlocked in Iowa. That’s really what started my love of stories. Plus, in my family, books were always an important part of our lives,” Froehlich remembers.
Once Froehlich landed in Virginia, she opened Stone Soup Books, a name that paid tribute to working with what you had to create what you want. Stone Soup Books started as a bookstore cafe, a gathering space where customers could find a good book while enjoying a meal made with local ingredients, and enjoy live music in the evenings. After the original Stone Soup Books closed, Froehlich became the farm manager at JMD Farms, but opening a new iteration of Stone Soup Books was always on her mind. She was on the hunt for a new space when the pandemic hit. Trying to be a bookseller in a digital world is hard enough, but trying to be a bookseller in a pandemic seemed a monumental challenge, but luck was on Froehlich’s side.
“I was out driving around and doing a little soul searching and trying to figure out how to be a bookseller in the world that we are in, and I found this amazing place in downtown Waynesboro, in an old industrial building. It’s an angled building, which I love because it’s so unique and different,” Froehlich explains. Ironically, like her childhood home near the Mississippi River, Froehlich’s new space is near Waynesboro’s South River.
That summer, Froehlich and a team of DIY’ers spent the summer giving the space some much needed TLC in preparation for a new opening. Now, Stone Soup Books is renamed as Stone Soup Books at the South River to pay homage to the new location. “The name is critical and important to what our role is here. Right outside the window here, I see the South River. I can read a book at the river, and I kayak the river. So I love the river. The river is also important because it speaks to how important nature and the natural world is to our daily lives. That’s very important to what we have here,” Froehlich describes.
Inside of Stone Soup Books at South River
As an entrepreneur bookseller in a digital world, Froehlich has worked hard to remove every barrier for customers purchasing a book from Stone Soup versus retail giants like Amazon, including a price match guarantee and a way to allocate part of the proceeds to your favorite local non-profit. Beyond cost, Froehlich says there’s an even more important reason to support local shops and entrepreneurs. “If people only buy online, the price is paid in your community. Do you have that resource anymore? Do you have that place to go to for stories, for all the other things that booksellers bring to you, which are new authors, events, conversations? A lot of what we do is out in the community. These are important elements, and they’re not coming from the Amazons out there,” Froehlich says.
When it comes time to read your next book take a stroll along the South River on your way to Stone Soup Books at South River. You’ll be greeted by a knowledgeable and friendly staff who will help you find a story to get lost in. Plus, you’ll know every dollar you spend there goes back into your community in ways that make Waynesboro a better place to live.
To show your support for Stone Soup Books and learn more about their many community programs, including consignment and book rescue opportunities, visit stonesoupbooks.net. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram at @stonesoupbookswaynesboro.