In last week’s post, I encouraged us (me included) to dwell on positive, lovely, beautiful, true things. The weekend brought new lows in political news and in terrible stories of a hurricane spreading devastation from Haiti to the Bahamas and up the southeast coast of the United States. It’s truer than ever, this need to turn toward what is good. And maybe fun, too.
While I was in North Carolina recently visiting family and friends, I managed to sneak in a few minutes with my mom to visit a new (old) favorite bookstore. It’s an old favorite because it’s the independent bookstore I’ve been going to for a couple of decades, and I was sad to learn last year that it would be changing locations. The new space is fantastic, though, and I wish I could have lingered even longer in this beautiful “new” favorite bookstore.
Walking in the front door, I was immediately transported into what feels both new and old, as if an old world bookstore or library had risen up with new polish and bold colors.
The ceilings soar, and a second floor—only a little larger than a balcony—takes up part of the space and draws your eyes upward.
Words and inspiration appear on the walls at several turns. A Neil Gaiman quote accompanies artwork that fits well:
Anna Quindlen reminds us of the transportive and welcoming nature of books.
I had never set foot in this new version of the bookstore, but I immediately felt at home. There was enough sameness to make it feel warm and familiar.
And to see C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on books (and beverages) front and center thrilled me:
The previous location for the bookstore had low ceilings, subdued green walls, and only a few chairs. Here in the new space, the bookstore staff have tucked away chairs throughout the bright, cheery store.
This particular chair may not be as comfortable as some of the others, but its place by a writing desk (not coincidentally, I suppose, by the books about writing) made it seem cozy and welcoming for me.
This quiet corner upstairs seems to invite lingering, to encourage conspiracy and conversation. Oh, how I would love to sit here with a friend and chat about books. It does remind me of one particular book from my past, and I wonder if it evokes anything for you? (I’ll tell you in a bit where these chairs transported me.)
Pre-teen boys played hide-and-seek among the shelves, running upstairs and down, breaking the peace in a fun way. I heard them talking about C.S. Lewis at one point. One boy declared, “I don’t know him. I don’t read very much.”
A quiet murmur from the two other boys let him know he *did* in fact know C.S. Lewis. “Ohhhhhh! I’ve read that.” I can only assume they knew, while he had forgotten, Lewis was the author who created Narnia.
Speaking of magical places, the children’s section is a dream. A tree “grows” up to the ceiling, and in its branches, you’ll find many children’s favorite book characters. A mural, sign post and other details let children of all ages know they are welcome to make themselves at home here.
While there’s the part of me that doesn’t love change and misses the bookstore in its old location, I’m thrilled to see this shingle hanging outside by a red awning, welcoming all to come inside. To discover a different place. To stumble upon a new favorite. To encounter the world of books and reading in a new and exciting way.
Do you have a favorite independent bookstore where you live? Or in a place you enjoy as a tourist? I’d love to hear what makes it your favorite. Is it knowledgeable staff? A grand selection? Inviting chairs? A creative space where children are clearly welcome?
Oh, that reminds me. The two bright yellow-green chairs with the little end table against the solid red wall? They transported me right to Goodnight Moon.
Love the pictures Hope and the quotes you shared. I sure wish we had more of these in every city. It does feel cozy and warm and sooo inviting. Thanks for sharing another thing to add to my bucket list!
I’m so glad you recognized what we tried to capture at our new Quail Ridge Books. I feel like you are the first person who has written a piece about us that has gotten it spot on. You stepped in and used all your senses to get to know our space, and I dig that!
Everything you love about the new store was important to us: the quotes, comfy chairs, familiarity, an old European but quirky vibe, a feeling of home, and more.
Please come back. We’re not quite done. We’ll have a few more comfy chairs, quotes, art, and more importantly, wonderful books to share.
Thank you! Thank you!
Owner, Quail Ridge Books
Hi, Lisa — thanks for dropping by and for letting me know that I got the vibe you’re trying to create. Thanks even more for creating such a lovely space for books and people to encounter one another. I’ve loved Quail Ridge for many years, and I have a feeling that your new version of it will be the bar against which I measure other bookstores. I’ll be back as often as possible. Thank *you*!
Believe it or not, I haven’t been yet… STill mourning the old space. It was much more “on my path.” But you have inspired me to go. I have a $50 gift card in my wallet.
It’s worth the visit — especially with such a delightful gift in your wallet. Go when you have time to browse and sit in a couple of the chairs and wander the kids’ section. Afterward, I hope you’ll let me know how you find the new space.