Independent bookstores are as much a community as they are a business. And business is booming. From Buxton to Boone and parts in between, here are our picks for the best ones to check out.
When does a cup of coffee come with a book purchased online? Probably never.
Independent bookstores are still the place for people to meet up with friends and listen to authors talk. North Carolina’s indie book stores lure customers in with safe spaces, reading suggestions and entertainment. The business model thrives on connections. And business is, despite the pandemic, booming.
American Booksellers Association, a not-for-profit trade organization, found that some 80% of its survey respondents saw higher sales in 2021 than in 2020, and nearly 70% said their sales last year were higher than 2019. As of July, ABA has 2,023 members in 2,561 locations in the United States; 111 member stores are in North Carolina.
“Independent bookstores represent so much more than retail businesses,” said Ray Daniels, chief communications officer at ABA. “In many areas, they are a place where like-minded individuals can gather and form community. Bookstores are those rare places where people can form families, share knowledge, and find comfort. Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, these dynamic places have managed to grow and redefine how they connect with their customers in a myriad of unique ways.”
We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’ve collected 20 of our favorite indie bookstores across the state. Find your next adventure below.
The newest Black-owned bookstore in the Queen City opened in late August with new and old books, rare and vintage finds. It’s a space, according to the website, “where nostalgia marries modernity.”
This book café serves coffee, espresso, and teas in a historic area of West Charlotte. 2823 Beatties Ford Road, Suite D., Charlotte
Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar
No one will tell you to “shush” in this bookstore: Live music, from jazz to pop, are offered on weekends along with wine pairings and champagne- and mimosa-themed events.
Look for a specialty section with fishing and hunting books. 1 Page Ave #101, Asheville
The family-owned and -operated bookstore opened in 1999. It recently moved its collection of used books—children, fiction, non-fiction—to its new location in East Charlotte, and continues to be a favorite for local writers and book worms. The Greener Apple sells eco-friendly products within the shop. 3040 Eastway Drive, Suite B, Charlotte
Find the perfect mystery or romance paperback at this beach town bookshop or peruse their selection of works by NC authors. Bring in your old books for credit toward other used merchandise in the store. 4915 C Arendell Street, Morehead City
Buxton Village Books
Buy a book, get a history lesson at Buxton Village Books. It’s housed in a pre-Civil War building, constructed with timbers from a shipwreck. New and local authors as well as Outer Banks history are featured. 47918 Highway 12, Buxton
City Lights Bookstore
A pair of cats lord over this bookshop which specializes in rare and out-of-print texts. The adjacent café is a go-to spot for locally roasted coffee and Sunday brunch. 3 E. Jackson St., Sylva
The Country Bookshop
Knowing this book shop began in someone’s home makes it more impressive that the likes of Jan Brett, James Patterson, and Nicholas Sparks have given readings at the downtown storefront. Taylor Jenkins Reed, author of “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo,” visits this fall. 140 NW Broad St., Southern Pines
Trouble finding just the right book? Downtown Books’ motto is, “put the right book in the right hands at the right time.”
The staff come from a variety of backgrounds and are ready to recommend all types of books and won’t just hand you the next big thing. 103 Sir Walter Raleigh St., Manteo
The Eclectible Shop
Rare finds such as antiques, art, out-of-print books, vintage records and more are available. 1036 W. Northwest Blvd. Winston-Salem
Greensboro and Winston-Salem
Founded in the 1970s, McKay’s owners wanted to “start an alternate university system,” according to their website, because they believed the current education system “restrained learning.”
Committed to supporting public education, the used bookstore offers free store trade credit to local teachers. Since customers sell and trade with McKay’s, finding something a little different is always a possibility. 1607 Battleground Ave., Greensboro; 745 Jonestown Rd., Winston-Salem
Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews
Owners Miranda and Jaime Sanchez are committed to providing an elevated experience to their staff and customers. Staff are given a living wage guarantee and health insurance.
Books may be enjoyed with craft brews, wine, churros and chocolate from local sources. Bonus: Their monthly book club aims to be a safe space for readers to discuss queer literature. 109 E Franklin St., Chapel Hill
This bookstore is a resource for people searching for more than a book to take on holiday. Readers can search for appropriately aged books about anti-racism and queer literature, join the online Pride Among the Pines Book Club and ask for a mystery box of books. 471 W. King St., Boone
Shop for new and used books, greeting cards, and specialty gifts in this Historic Downtown Concord shop. Goldberry, the “river-daughter,” is a nod to a character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” 12 Union St. South, Concord
The iconic bookshop is a must-see on a visit to Asheville. Its name is based on Mrs. Malaprop, a character in the 1775 play, “The Rivals” by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Her misuse of language in the play inspired her surname to become a noun to represent inappropriate phrases.55 Haywood St., Asheville
Old Books on Front Street
In a historic building in downtown Wilmington, a seemingly quiet bookstore has quite a few surprises: It’s been the site for a few scenes in film and television. Up to six guests can spend the night in The Top Shelf Literary Loft. Professional pianist James Jarvis plays on the shop’s piano almost every Saturday. 249 N. Front St., Wilmington
Page 158 Books
As a neighborhood bookstore, adults and youth gather for author talks and book clubs. Owner Sue Lucey is expanding the shop to include a café and an area for tables, chairs, and a stage for author events and live music. 415 Brooks St., Wake Forest
Pig City Books
Combine a trip to one of Lexington’s barbecue joints with a stop at Pig City Books. The bright pink door behind the Old Courthouse will be your beacon. 6 Court Square, Lexington
Quail Ridge Books
With a mission of promoting literacy, Quail Ridge Books offers a robust list of author talks, book club meetings, story times and writing workshops—something for everyone. 4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road, Raleigh
Rofhiwa Book Cafe
Since 2021, the two owners of Rofhiwa Book Cafe have been curating a global collection of fiction and poetry written by Black writers. In store and virtual book talks are part of the store’s event schedule. 406 S. Driver St., Durham
The Urban Reader
Black-owned and operated, The Urban Reader features a wide selection of materials including books written by Black authors and local writers, as well as comic books and graphic novels. Catch a poetry reading at one of the open mic nights. 440 East McCullough Drive Suite A-130, Charlotte