If it weren’t for the Blue Ridge Mountains, visible in the distance from downtown Asheville, you might think that you had time-traveled to 1920s Paris when you arrive at Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar. Dark wooden bookshelves offering about 25,000 volumes fill three levels. Leather couches on the first floor and club chairs tucked into nooks throughout the space are spots for tête-à-têtes over cups of coffee or glasses of wine (from a list of nearly 100). Ensembles from the city’s thriving Gypsy jazz scene perform classics in the style of Django Reinhardt. You’ll even hear conversations en français around the big table on the second floor: Three local French clubs are among the many groups that gather at the landmark store that Thomas and Donna Wright opened a dozen years ago, marrying his love of books and her love of Champagne.
“We try to have a little something for everyone,” Donna says, and it’s true of both the books and the beverages on offer. The store’s collection is especially strong in Southern history, and its glass-fronted section of rarities has included signed copies of Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird. The wine bar has become the departure point for food tours of the city organized by Eating Asheville, and the Wrights have started hosting groups, from wedding parties to real-estate agents, looking for a little Parisian flair.
Don’t mistake the dog on the store’s logo for a French poodle, though: It’s a Bouvier des Flandres, a breed that the Wrights love, and it’s a signal to other dog owners that their well-behaved pets are welcome here, too.