Lara Hammond stands with some of the books available for purchase in her new shop.

Sage Coffee and Books, owned by Mississippi native Lara Hammond, just relocated to the Cotton District in Starkville and is now the only independent bookstore in town. 

Before opening up Sage with her mother in its original location in  Meridian, Lara spent 20 years in California. 

She said although she originally fell in love with reading and literature in Mississippi, it was because she was so, “well-read,” she felt inclined to travel and see the world outside of her hometown. 

After relocating to the Los Angeles area, where she spent the next two decades, Hammond said a lot of her time was spent at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore. 

“The Bodhi Tree has both sides of the book-store,” Hammond said. “It has a building where only new books are sold, and a building more like an independent store, where they house both new and used books.”

“Sage Coffee and Books is almost like an homage to the Bodhi Tree, since it became such a big part of my life while I was in California,” Hammond said. 

After moving back home to Mississippi, Hammond opened up her own independent bookstore with the help of her mother. 

The store in Meridian had been open for three years when her mother passed away. 

“At first I thought that I wouldn’t be able to continue the store after I lost my mom,” Hammond said, “but it just motivated me to keep it going.” 

When the opportunity to relocate Sage was presented to Hammond, she said she knew it was the perfect spot. 

“Whenever I came to visit, everyone was so sweet and welcoming, and the location was beautiful,” Hammond said.

Starkville was not home to any independent bookstores, meaning Sage would be the only one in the university town. 

The store has now been open on 19 Page St. in the Cotton District for about a month.

“It’s a work in progress, but I’m always open to new ideas and suggestions,” Hammond said. 

Books of all genres can be found in the store stacked in various ways. Anything from politics or economics, to classics and romance novels, new and used, are featured throughout the store. 

Work from local artist Paul Buckley is also on sale, as well as a variety of records.

So far, Sage has already hosted a book-signing event with author Janet Ferguson, and is planning on another book signing event in November. 

A poetry reading with creative writing artist and teacher, C.T. Salazar, is planned for mid-October as well. It will be open-mic for anyone else wanting to participate.

“Basically if you have a voice, or anything that needs to be heard, you will always have a place to say it,” Salazar said referring to Sage. 

Other than the new events coming to Sage, Hammond said she wants it to be a place where people can come after a long day, sit down, relax and take it all in. 

The store is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, with hours extending for those in need of a place to study, finish class work or other activities. 

Hammond said although the store is a labor of love, she knows she is in the perfect place. 

“This is something I do because I believe in it,” Hammond said, “not because it will make me rich.”

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