In the winter of 1901, a fire swept through downtown Davidson. Many businesses were lost, but a young man named Archie Brown salvaged bricks from the ashes to build a
In the winter of 1901, a fire swept through downtown Davidson. Many businesses were lost, but a young man named Archie Brown salvaged bricks from the ashes to build a new general store right across Main Street from the town’s namesake college. “Archie Brown’s General Store was one of Davidson’s earliest gathering places,” says Adah Fitzgerald, co-owner of Main Street Books. The independent bookstore has occupied the first floor of Brown’s old building since 1987. Surrounded by more than 10,000 colorful hardcovers and paperbacks, Fitzgerald points to a dark stain in the original hardwood floor. “There was a woodstove back here where people would come in off the street and chat,” she says.
Today, the oldest building in the business district is a bustling gathering place once again, thanks to Fitzgerald, who bought Main Street Books with her mom, Mary Barone, in 2015 and turned it into a bright, modern, communal space. Now, Fitzgerald manages a staff of eight and an active events calendar. Local authors launch their books here, including Davidson’s Megan Miranda, whose novel The Last House Guest was one of Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks in 2019.
On a Sunday afternoon, elms and oaks filter sunlight through the store’s floor-to-ceiling display windows. 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. “I love being in the store all day, every day, and seeing the stream of people coming in and out,” 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.”