A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

  Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe — Asheville In the early 1980s, the streets of downtown Asheville were abandoned and forlorn, a far cry from the vibrant tourism destination that the city is

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  Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe — Asheville In the early 1980s, the streets of downtown Asheville were abandoned and forlorn, a far cry from the vibrant tourism destination that the city is

20 Inspiring Independent Bookstores in North Carolina


Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe — Asheville

In the early 1980s, the streets of downtown Asheville were abandoned and forlorn, a far cry from the vibrant tourism destination that the city is today. That all changed when Emöke B’Racz opened Malaprop’s on Haywood Street. She stocked the original 2,000-square-foot building primarily with poetry and Southern literature, and opened a café in the basement; she wrapped every book that was purchased in craft paper and red ribbon. “Malaprop’s kind of set the tone for the whole downtown,” says author Ron Rash, who has frequented the store both as a writer and a reader since it opened in 1982. “It really is the heart and soul of Asheville.”

Rash was just getting started in his writing career when he first visited Malaprop’s. Soon after, they began carrying his first publications and inviting him to host readings at the store. “They carried those poetry collections and story collections when no one else did,” Rash says. “They believed in them, those early books, and put them on the shelves and helped establish a readership for me.”

Rash’s first reading drew 10 or 12 people, but the numbers grew quickly with help from the store. One night, Malaprop’s was so packed for Rash’s reading that they had to turn people away. “I’ve just been so grateful for that ongoing support,” Rash says. “There’s a debt I can never repay them.”

Author readings, book discussions, and guest speakers draw a crowd almost nightly, making this a coveted location for touring authors. “The store’s reputation is so great nationally that when major publishing houses decide on book tours, one of the first stores they think of is Malaprop’s,” Rash says. “They know they’re going to get a good turn out, there are serious readers there, and they know the staff will continue to support the books.”

Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe
55 Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801
(800) 441-9829

Books & Beans — Little Switzerland

Packed with novels from floor to ceiling, Books & Beans is full of quirky details that make visitors feel like they’re stepping into a professor’s study: Vintage lamps adorn almost every table, arched doorways lead to a labyrinth of rooms stacked full of novels, and hardwood floors creak familiarly, a nod to the steps of bibliophiles past. This three-story shop, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 334, is a thoughtful stop for those who want to indulge their wanderlust on the road and between the pages. Pick up a pastry and iced latte from the full espresso bar, then wander the aisles to discover your next read.

Little Switzerland Books & Beans
28749 9426 NC-226A
Marion, NC 28752
(828) 467-8107

Locals and Mars Hill University students flock to Camden’s Coffee House to read and chat over inventive coffee drinks like the Log Cabin Latte. photograph by Tim Robison

Camden’s Coffee House — Mars Hill

A regular walks into Camden’s Coffee House, greeted by the smell of coffee grounds and the sight of familiar faces. He digs into his wallet for his “library card” — the shop’s rewards card — to get credit for his drink, and heads straight to his usual spot to grab his treasure, a copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel, from a hiding place near the shop’s bookshelves. Owner Dave Bohager’s wife, Shari, is an avid reader who lent her book collection to fill the walls of the shop when it opened in 2018. Camden’s nearly 500-title collection has grown through local donations and includes a kids’ section with tales once adored by Dave and Shari’s children. “I was finding little drawings that I made [as a child] when I was going through them a couple of weeks ago,” says co-owner Alex Bohager, Dave and Shari’s daughter. Originally called The Library Coffee House, the shop was renamed in honor of its former manager and owner Camden, the Bohagers’ son, who died in 2020. Now it’s a cozy spot for anyone passing through town to stop for a hot drink and warm welcome.

Camden’s Coffee House
40 North Main Street
Mars Hill, NC 28754
(828) 680-1246

The Curiosity Shop — Murphy

This bookstore and gift shop in the southwestern corner of the state has been keeping visitors curious — and at the same time supporting its surrounding community — for 18 years. Situated on a peninsula between the Hiwassee and Valley rivers, The Curiosity Shop is a hub of good conversation centering on books and current affairs. Owners Anne Silver and Kerry Archer are passionate about buying and selling products from service organizations such as Thistle Farms, a ministry that empowers, supports, and employs female victims of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. While fiction is their bestselling genre on the book side, be sure to check out their selection of jewelry, candles, puzzles, and other gift items, too.

The Curiosity Shop
46 Valley River Avenue
Murphy, NC 28906
(828) 835-7433

City Lights Bookstore — Sylva

For readers drawn to the literature of western North Carolina, City Lights in Sylva is the place to be. Its wide selection includes bestsellers, handpicked selections from the staff, and even sheet music and audio books. But what really sets the store apart is its focus on regional works. Home to a notable collection of Appalachian fiction, poetry, and folk life, with selections from North Carolina writers such as Ron Rash and Fred Chappell, the store supports the long literary legacy of the western part of the state. When you stop in, don’t forget to say hi to the dapper tuxedo shop cat, Cedric, who keeps a watchful eye on the books.

City Lights Bookstore
3 East Jackson Street
Sylva, NC 28779
(828) 586-9499

The Book Shelf — Tryon

The Book Shelf has been a fixture in Tryon since 1952, and sells everything from national bestsellers to literary classics. Nestled at the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s the ideal place to settle in with some coffee and a new or old book.

The Book Shelf
17 South Trade Street
Tryon, NC 28782
(828) 859-9304

Flyleaf Books — Chapel Hill

This Chapel Hill shop’s expansive book collection — from North Carolina novels to new releases — makes it worth a visit, but locals are especially endeared to Flyleaf because of its hand in shaping the local literary community through a thriving events calendar. From educational lectures and story times to local author signings and book clubs, Flyleaf gives Orange County locals a spot to wonder and wander — providing resources for their next literary adventure, wherever it might take them.

Flyleaf Books
752 M.L.K. Jr Blvd
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(919) 942-7373

Park Road Books — Charlotte

For more than 40 years, Park Road Books has been a Charlotte landmark, and it’s now the only independent bookseller in the city that offers solely new books. For visitors looking for a new read, their 2017 fiction and nonfiction bestseller lists give an insight into the books the residents of Charlotte enjoyed most last year. The store hosts author events weekly, as well as the “Foodie” and “Geek” book clubs. And if you stop in, you just might get to meet Yola, the store dog.

Park Road Books
4139 Park Road
Charlotte, NC 28209
(704) 525-9239

Adah Fitzgerald and her mom bought and renovated Main Street Books in 2015 after the previous owners retired. photograph by Laura Sumrak

Main Street Books — Davidson

On a Sunday afternoon, elms and oaks filter sunlight through the floor-to-ceiling display windows at Main Street Books in Davidson. Three families are huddled together in the children’s section, a retired couple is browsing the “local author” shelves, and employees are moving furniture to make room for an art club meeting. This beloved book shop is bolstered by enthusiastic community support, whether at book club meetings, signings with local authors, or events for children. “I love being in the store all day, every day, and seeing the stream of people coming in and out,” owner Adah Fitzgerald says. “Davidson used to be more of a bedroom community, but now, thanks to all the shops and restaurants and music, it’s a vibrant community and a destination in its own right.”

Main Street Books
126 South Main Street
Davidson, NC 28036
(704) 892-6841

Scuppernong Books — Greensboro

The warmth of this Guilford County bookstore can be felt from the moment you step through its glass doors — from the sunlight that speckles the shop’s olive-green walls to the cozy coffee-and-wine-bar at the front of the store. “This isn’t just a place to get books and leave; it’s a place to talk about them,” writer Steve Mitchell says. Along with community events like poetry readings by local writers and Silent Book Club (bring a book and sip wine amongst fellow introverts!), Scuppernong also partners with the Greensboro Literary Organization to present the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival, which happens every spring.

Scuppernong Books
304 S Elm Street
Greensboro, NC 27401
(336) 763-1919

McIntyre’s Books — Pittsboro

Pittsboro’s Fearrington Village is home to McIntyre’s Books, a beloved bookstore that has attracted more than 3,000 visiting authors in its 28-year history. Founded and run by Keebe Fitch, McIntyre’s selection emphasizes children’s books, mysteries, cookbooks, and local authors. They also host the Bookends Book Club, where readers come together to discuss the works of writers such as Shirley Jackson, Edith Wharton, and Saul Bellow. With an extensive calendar of author events and readings, children’s story times, and book festivals, McIntyre’s has made a name for itself as one of the South’s best independent booksellers.

McIntyre’s Books
2000 Fearrington Village Center
Pittsboro NC 27312
(919) 542-3030

Quail Ridge Books — Raleigh

Charles Frazier was a budding writer when he visited Quail Ridge Books for the first time in 1986, but owner Nancy Olson treated him like the bestselling author he would become. He had just two published pieces at the time: a travel book on South America and a short story printed in an anthology. “She kept those on the shelves like I was a significant writer,” Frazier says. Over the years, a friendship blossomed. Olson helped him make connections with people in the book world, touted his first novel, Cold Mountain, to customers, and, when the time came for Frazier to take the spotlight, gave him advice on author readings. “She was a little miffed at me that I didn’t do my first event at Quail Ridge, but I was really anxious about doing those,” Frazier says. “I didn’t want to do the first one there if it was really not good; I wanted to practice a couple of times.”

When Frazier won the National Book Award for Fiction for Cold Mountain in 1997, Olson was at his side. “She’s been supportive to so many writers over the years – North Carolina writers especially, but lots of other writers, too,” Frazier says. “I’m rarely with a group of writers anywhere that somebody doesn’t mention what a supportive force she was in their lives and their careers.”

Olson died in 2016, but her legacy is carried on through her devoted staff. “A lot of the staff there has been there for years and years and years,” Frazier says. “You know them, you know their taste, you trust their advice, and it gives the place a feeling of community. There aren’t all that many businesses around these days that have that kind of continuity over the decades.”

Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road
Raleigh, NC 27609
(919) 828-1588

The Country Bookshop — Southern Pines

What started in 1953 as two women selling books from their living room has blossomed into a sophisticated cultural landmark in Southern Pines. More than 60 years later, The Country Bookshop – now owned by local newspaper The Pilot – continues to serve as a gathering place and educational hub for residents and visitors, with story time, author readings, book clubs, and more. Recently, the store also established publishing services for independent authors, expanding its commitment to local and regional writers.

The Country Bookshop
140 Northwest Broad Street
Southern Pines, NC 28387
(910) 692-3211


Above shoppers, signed caricatures by local artist Erick Huffine capture the faces of notable authors — like Winston-Salem residents Charlie Lovett and Sarah McCoy — who have attended the shop’s events. photograph by Maria West Photography

Bookmarks — Winston-Salem

From the bright yellow café tables along the outside of the long brick building to the vases of sunflowers placed between book displays, Bookmarks is one of Winston-Salem’s cheeriest and most inspiring spots. This creative aesthetic goes hand-in-hand with the nonprofit organization’s mission: encouraging a love of reading and writing in the community. In addition to the bookstore and gathering space, Bookmarks puts on the Carolinas’ largest annual book festival, and has hosted Pulitzer Prize winners and a national poet laureate for author events. They also founded the Authors in Schools program, connecting writers with thousands of students each year.

634 West Fourth Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
(336) 747-1471

Buxton Village Books — Buxton

Travelers on NC Highway 12 might mistake this charming book shop for a coastal grandmother’s home before seeing the wooden sign that indicates what awaits them inside: a literary haven that pays homage to its inspiring surroundings. The store’s shelves are lined with books that indicate the shop’s proximity to the North Carolina coast: books on marine life, coastal ghost stories, Hatteras history, and Outer Banks cookbooks tell the story of how our home can shape us — and inspire us, too.

Buxton Village Books
47918 North Carolina Hwy 12
Buxton, NC 27920
(252) 995-4240

Find handwritten recommendations and a welcoming porch at this soundside bookstore-café. photograph by Baxter Miller

Editor’s note: Duck’s Cottage is now owned by Jamie Anderson.

Duck’s Cottage — Duck

Duck’s Cottage used to be over there,” says owner Allen Lehew as he points toward Currituck Sound, less than 100 yards away. Now, it’s part of a boardwalk shopping village, which didn’t exist when the 1,000-square-foot cottage was built in the 1920s. The town of Duck, in fact, didn’t exist then either. Originally, the quaint cottage was home to the Powder Ridge Gun Club. (What did they hunt, you ask? “Ducks!” Lehew laughs.) Since 2002, it’s been home to around 2,000 books — buyer Jamie Anderson tapes handwritten recommendations to the shelves — and the best coffee in town.

Try the cold brew or snag a bag of coffee beans, like the customer favorite, Coconut Crunch. Though the coastal community thrives on tourism, Lehew keeps his business open every day except Christmas, so locals always have a nearby porch where they can read the paper or watch the seagulls. “We see the same faces, year after year,” Lehew says. “When one young man first came in, he’d get one of our lattes — with no espresso — and he couldn’t see over the counter. Now, he’s taller than me.”

Duck’s Cottage
1240 Duck Road
Duck, NC 27949
(252) 261-5510

City Center Gallery and Books — Fayetteville

An art gallery that bloomed into a bookstore, City Center Gallery and Books has been downtown Fayetteville’s literary resource since adding “Books” to its name in 2003. Thousands of titles, from military history to mysteries, share a home with a gallery of original work by local artists and photographers. The store hosts book signings, lectures, and meet-and-greets with authors, and participates in Fayetteville’s 4th Friday events every month, when their doors stay open until 9 p.m. to welcome friends and neighbors enjoying the downtown festivities.

City Center Gallery and Books
112 Hay Street
Fayetteville, NC 28301
(910) 678-8899

The Next Chapter Books and Art New Bern

In a cozy brick cottage not far from both the Neuse River waterfront and Tryon Palace is The Next Chapter, a used bookstore that promotes the region’s authors. The shop hosts book signings, seminars, and workshops throughout the year, and also displays the work of local artists, including an “artist of the month.” With the promise of good literary and artistic conversation, this shop in historic downtown New Bern has been a cultural institution since 2007. Cozy up with a good book and a hot drink, but make sure you leave room for store mascot, Baybe the Pomeranian, to snuggle up next to you.

The Next Chapter Books and Art
320 South Front Street
New Bern, NC 28560
(252) 633-5774

Books to Be Red — Ocracoke

Behind the signature red door of Books to be Red, owner Leslie Lanier sells everything from new and used books, to pottery and toys, to craft supplies and handmade gifts. Her hair is no longer the bright red from which the bookstore gets its name – a clever play on words – but her passion for books is as vibrant as ever. Housed in an 1898 cottage on the Outer Banks, Books to Be Red opened in 1995 in conjunction with Deepwater Pottery as Ocracoke’s only full-service independent bookstore. “The only books that I could buy on Ocracoke Island were little mass-market paperbacks in the grocery store, which is fun, but not exactly what I wanted,” Lanier says.

When a friend of Lanier’s asked if she wanted to open a small bookstore in the same building as her new pottery store, Lanier readily agreed. Books to Be Red and Deepwater Pottery coexisted in the same building until the owner of Deepwater moved away in 2003. Lanier now runs the two entities as one store, a unique destination for locals – and tourists. “It’s amazing to have these repeat customers that only come here once or twice a year, but they make a point to come into my shop – see me and say hello, buy a book, and still support me after 20 years,” she says.

Books to Be Red
34 School Road
Ocracoke, NC 27960
(252) 928-3936

Quarter Moon Books — Topsail Beach

In 1995, Lori Fisher traded the Great Lakes of Minnesota for the North Carolina coast, where she bought Quarter Moon Books in Topsail Beach. Whether visitors are in need of a birthday or anniversary gift, or are seeking a new read for those long summer days on the beach, they’re bound to find something to pique their interest at this bookstore situated “under the moon and by the sea, the happiest place to be.” The store offers a wide selection of clothing, gifts, and stationery, as well as an in-store and online collection of hundreds of books, from memoir to humor to travel. While you’re in, stop by the coffee and wine bar, where piña coladas and the white chocolate-espresso drink known as the “Iced White Whale” will keep you hydrated for swimming, sunbathing, and reading.

Quarter Moon Books
708 South Anderson Boulevard
Topsail Beach, NC 28445
(800) 697-9134

This story was published on Feb 15, 2018

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