“Life is too short for bad books, bad baking, and bad coffee,” proclaims Cherokee County resident Nanette Wesley. Most people would enthusiastically agree, but with prices sky high for everything and a coffee shop on every corner, avoiding poor-quality baking, exorbitantly priced coffee, and expensive books isn’t easy. Clever Nanette has created a charming solution for the community: The Sweet Read.
ABOVE: Within walking distance from Woodstock’s popular downtown, the shop is located in Main Street’s Historic Dawson House, originally built in 1908.
Nanette is a full-time attorney, but her passions are traveling, baking, and reading. She is also a self-described snob. “When it comes to what I spend my time reading, eating, or drinking, only the good stuff will do.” While she has all the good stuff at her house, Nanette believes “in life, we all must do our part. My part is providing a place where everyone gathers to get all those things together. It brings me joy to see people enjoying the baked goods I make with my own hands and the coffee here, even if I don’t make a profit from it.” The Sweet Read also offers many literary treasures, and at secondhand prices, anyone can afford them.
The concept for The Sweet Read germinated in Nanette’s mind about fifteen years ago. Nanette loves to visit secondhand bookstores during her travels, so when it was time to start her own, she knew what she wanted. Entering The Sweet Read is like going to your quirky aunt’s house or the house of a friend you wish you had, a friend who loves to bake and has an extensive library. The house is a charming cottage with nooks and crannies, stained glass windows, comfy couches, and chairs worn in enough to feel comfortable in, even if you drop a few crumbs. Art from Nanette’s travels decorates the walls, and soothing music sets the mood. The house is perfect for entering a portal to another time and place as well as entertaining new novel ideas.
ABOVE: The children’s section offers a space for children to sit and explore new worlds in the books around them. The Sweet Read invites families to attend storytimes on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of each month.
The Sweet Read has more than ten thousand hand-curated previously loved books. Nanette knows her inventory well and does not accept just any book. With a glance at the publisher’s name, she has a good idea of whether the book has merit. All the books are in good shape and some are first editions or signed. She is already talking about expanding to the back of the building with more titles. Can’t find a particular book? Nanette is happy to use her connections in the secondhand book world to track it down for you. In fact, she relishes the challenge.
Not a reader? Although Nanette’s sure she can find the right book to turn you into a bibliophile, she invites you to come into the house for her baked goods. The offerings rotate daily, and their handmade goodness blow the institutional offerings from chain coffee shops out of the water. Some examples are Earl Grey scones with a whisper of lavender, banana pecan pie bars, coconut layer cake, light cheddar chive quiche, tart and sweet cherry, and almond coffee cake, ice cream, and cotton candy made in house. With all the delicious options, you might even wonder if there are house elves in the kitchen. Nanette keeps coming up with new savory and sweet yummies and almost always offers a gluten-free option as well.
ABOVE: The bakery offers fresh-baked goods daily and visitors can expect to be surprised with new and unique choices each time they visit, including these coconut-topped pastries. The bakery regularly features gluten-free goods as well.
Book clubs are welcome at The Sweet Read. The house can accommodate about twelve people. On Thursday nights you can reserve the store for your group and make arrangements for baked goods.
Nanette hopes The Sweet Read will be a respite for adults as well as a place to develop young readers. The children’s section at The Sweet Read is well-stocked, cozy, and features two recliners and a carpet to sprawl out on. It’s an inviting place to spend a few hours with your kiddos looking at books and enjoying a treat. With the affordable prices of the secondhand books, you can even let the kids go home with a book of their choosing.
Lollygaggers, browsers, and those just looking for a cup of coffee or tea and a chat are all welcome. With free Wi-Fi, you can work or study there. You can also play chess or checkers on the available boards, read, or visit with an old friend or make a new one while you lounge outside under a big shady tree.
One of Nanette’s favorite quotes is from Albert Camus: “Fiction is the lie through which we learn the truth.” While Nanette’s dream project, The Sweet Read, contains far more than fiction, the quote speaks to the importance of books and literacy. Affordable books with knowledgeable booksellers in a nurturing environment is the recipe for promoting literacy. As Nanette points out, literacy and the free exchange of ideas are the bedrock of a free society.
Leana Conway has been a Cherokee County resident for 22 years. Leana is originally from Canada but calls the South her home now. When she’s not writing about the fascinating neighbors she meets for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine, she’s busy as a full-time caregiver to her husband. Leana is also a blogger, mom, and new Oma (grandma in Dutch). Her life philosophy is “Find your calling, and you will find joy.”