Jim Strawn is the classic example of a person taking a passion – in his case a penchant for collecting books – and turning it into a business in retirement. In October, 2006, Jim, then age 65 and a former finance chief in the radio industry, along with his wife, Judy, opened their own store, Smythe Books, in Dunwoody, Georgia.
During three years of operation (the store closed in December, 2009), Smythe Books grew but was soon impacted by the down economy. That fact along with the time commitment necessary to running his business influenced Jim’s decision to close the Dunwoody store.
After the store closed, Smythe Books moved into the Strawn’s home where business is now done on the Internet, at book fairs and by appointment.
A Georgia native, Jim graduated from college in 1963 and spent much of the next 35 years in the broadcast business, first with Cox Broadcasting Corporation and eventually as a senior executive with two closely held chain radio stations. Midway through this career, he found a new hobby. The catalyst was a biography of C. S. Lewis, the English author best know for writing The Chronicles of Narnia.
“I never had been a big reader,” Jim says, “but this book hooked me. I couldn’t put it down.” By chance, a family trip to England was already in the works, and Strawn decided he would spend part of the vacation learning more about Lewis. The final day of the trip found him at a book fair in Oxford, where he bought several first editions of Lewis’s writings.
Although Smythe Books specializes in rare and first editions of the great British Christian apologetics – from Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien to G. K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers – Smythe Books offers a wide collection of contemporary fiction and non-fiction in a number of genres. They also offer book bindings and appraisal services.
Jim’s advice to new collectors is simple and reflects a philosophy someone gave him – “Collect what you like, what you respect, and what has affected you.”