At McIntyre’s Books, the staff tailors title selections to readers’ interests. It’s a welcome contrast to big-box bookstores.
McIntyre’s Books doesn’t have a romance section. It doesn’t have a science-fiction section or a self-help section. But McIntyre’s has carpet. The plush kind that makes your entire body relax as you let out an “ahhh” when your foot sinks in.
That soft-brown carpet — the color of coffee with a generous dose of cream — caught resident book buyer Pete Mock 15 years ago. It had him on the first step. “The first thing I thought was, ‘Oh my gosh, this carpet is so nice,’ ” Mock recalls. He walks through McIntyre’s rooms comfortably, like he’s in his own home. His work attire — a gray T-shirt, black jeans, and white sneakers — fits his casual, relaxed personality. And he fits McIntyre’s.
“Pete is hands down, bar none, the best bookseller,” says Manager Keebe Fitch. Mock’s not officially part of the Fitch family, but he’s been adopted.
Classy yet comfortable
Fitch started the bookstore 21 years ago. It was her father’s idea. R.B. Fitch wanted a bookstore in Fearrington Village, the residential haven he and his wife, Jenny, created on U.S. Highway 15-501 between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro where belted Galloway cows graze in pastures behind white-picket fences. The couple drew inspiration for the village square from their European travels. The quaint quadrant now includes a coffee shop, restaurant, gift shop, and bookstore, all surrounded by sprawling gardens.
Keebe Fitch figured she should take her father’s advice; after all, during her college days in Chapel Hill, she spent more time browsing in the Bull’s Head Bookshop than attending classes. So she pushed aside her hotel school plans, thinking, “Why would I do that when I’ve got all this here?”
The bookshop’s atmosphere and merchandise reflect Fearrington’s style: classy yet comfortable. Thick, white crown molding trims the walls, and studio lights fill the rooms with a warm glow. McIntyre’s Books looks like a house, not a store. Guests step into the foyer where they’re greeted by their host, Pete Mock. He guides them to whatever nook suits their literary interests.
The sitting room has plush furniture arranged around a fireplace with gas logs. Above the mantel a sign assures, “Southern literature is never dead.” Classic titles by literary greats, such as William Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe, fill the floor-to-ceiling shelves. Across the store, the cookbook corner has brick pavers laid in the floor — a traditional design choice in Southern kitchens. Copies of the The Fearrington House Cookbook, written by Fearrington’s first lady, Jenny Fitch, encourage chefs to take the tastes of the village home.
Mock’s favorite room is in the back — the mystery room. A tall chalkboard lists “Pete’s mystery picks of the week.” An oversize pair of wooden reading glasses, with a globe for an eyeball, sits on a table — a visual reminder that one can see the world through books.
Attention to detail
Children have their own space, too. In the kids’ room, a tower of Little Golden Books invites young readers to test their newfound skill. Preteen novels confront those difficult adolescent years when it seems you’re growing up too fast, but then again, not quite fast enough. One novel — 12 Finally by Wendy Mass — has a note card sticking out of its pages.
Are you a wisher? Do your parents tell you wait till you’re blah blah blah? READ THIS BOOK!!! I [heart] it so much! The characters are great, and the end is fantastic! Read this book if you are a wisher. — Hazel
The recommendation, written in print, is from Keebe Fitch’s 11-year-old daughter. “She’s always reading stuff,” Fitch says. When a young patron comes in the shop and needs some help, Fitch calls on Hazel. “She’ll ask, ‘So, what are you reading? What do you like?’ ” Fitch says, beaming.
Those same note-card recommendations, all written by hand, protrude from books throughout the store. It’s a personal detail that customers appreciate. “They know our handwriting,” Mock says. “If we’re not here, that’s what they look for.”
That attention to detail sets McIntyre’s apart in an industry that’s chock-full of impersonal box stores. “There are a lot of things that are big in publishing that don’t cut it here,” Fitch says. That’s why McIntyre’s Books doesn’t have a romance section, science-fiction section, or self-help section.
Instead of ordering whatever the catalogs offer, Mock takes home stacks of advance copies and pores through them on his couch. “I’ll read 10 pages, no. Read 10 pages, no,” he says. Mock sifts through the average books until he finds the gems — the ones that his customers will love. “That’s where the fun part comes in.”
Leah Hughes is the assistant editor of Our State magazine.