She loves books so much that it was her own book collection that led to the creation of Shelf Life bookstore in downtown Cuyahoga Falls.
On her 40th birthday, Sawat purchased an estate library of more than 1,000 books. She kept the books she wanted and decided to sell the rest. She ran an online ad for “a dollar a book” and the response was fantastic. Then, Sawat started doing meetups where she would sell books. Surprisingly, other readers would often bring her more.
“I quickly outgrew the space in my house,” Sawat says. “I always wanted to have a bookstore, but I never thought it would happen so quickly.”
The solution: Shelf Life. When you step into Shelf Life, located on 2115 Front St. Ste L, Cuyahoga Falls, you’ll find yourself in a bookstore like no other. You’ll first notice how you are surrounded by books. Then you’ll see walls painted in deep purple, sunset orange and forest green. You’ll hear the jazz playing softly in the background. You might even notice the ceiling beam that is decorated with love letters, recipes and other items Sawat has found inside of books.
When you browse the shelves, you’ll find most non-fiction such as history, science, biographies and memoirs. If you’re a fan of fiction, you’ll discover sci-fi, fantasy, mixed historical, romance, humor and an entire bookshelf with books-turned-silverscreen.
On the right side of the store you’ll find one of the most important areas: the children’s and young adult section.
“Children make up half of the customers of Shelf Life,” Sawat says. “And that’s really important to me. Reading has a profound effect on what a persondoes in their life. Reading should start at a young age, and I want to do all I can to make reading easily accessible to everyone.”
On the other side of the store, you’ll find a table dedicated to books that have been self-published by local authors.
“I know it’s easy for books to go unnoticed. I want readers and writers to engage with each other in Shelf Life,” Sawat says.
As far as prices go, most books are $1. The only exceptions are a small bookcase with sets of books, a few higher value books and books written by local authors. You can donate or trade in your own gently used books for store credit too. Most books have a trade value of 25 cents a book.
There is also a “Page It Forward” card program where you can buy books for others or you can snag a card off the wall for yourself. Shelf Life also accepts donations.
Sawat also has book raffles for local nonprofits that focus on diversity and inclusion, and groups that promote childhood and adult literacy. For example, the store is a donation collection point for Bright Star Books, a nonprofit that brings books into the homes of limited-resource children in the Akron area.
The heart of Shelf Life is focused on bringing the community together through accessible reading.
“It’s my passion to bridge the gap between accessibility and affordability when it comes to reading,” Sawat says. “The value of printed words cannot be overstated in a time of digital dependency, and I want to do whatever I can to make sure people have the books they want.“
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