Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in January 2010.
Fred Chappell was being upstaged by a cat. The author and former Poet Laureate of North Carolina had been giving a reading at Literary Bookpost in Salisbury, but Goethe, one of three black cats who call the shop home, quickly emerged as the star of the show.
As an unsuspecting Chappell read from his latest work, Goethe moved gingerly up the bookstore’s shelves, searching for the perfect spot from which to pounce. The crowd’s attention turned from Chappell to the game of cat and mouse about to begin over his head.
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On Goethe’s heels, Literary Bookpost owner Deal Safrit teetered over a nearby banister, reaching out in an attempt to nab the cat before Chappell became prey. Safrit missed. Goethe jumped. Chappell jumped. And Goethe got what she was after — everyone’s attention at the evening’s reading.
“Fred was a good sport about it,” Safrit says now, several years later. “He offered up a joke or two as Goethe moved on to other pursuits.”
While not every event at Literary Bookpost involves such high drama, author appearances, book signings, and the shop’s Black Cat Poetry Readings, along with a diverse selection of books, have made the bookstore a central character in the literary life of Salisbury.
Safrit, whose trademark blue jeans and suspenders hint at his days as an industrial locksmith, opened the shop in 1998 with his wife, Catawba College Professor of Psychology Sheila Brownlow, and business partner Bill Greene. Safrit is the managing partner, and nearly everything in the store bears his fingerprints, right down to the handmade bookshelves that line the walls.
As the store has taken shape over the past 11 years, Safrit has made it a priority to repurpose materials, including countertops, additional shelving, and other items, from downtown Salisbury shops as they moved, renovated, or closed. The end result is a store where past meets present and one story flows into another.
Discussions of a new release occur across a counter that has served Salisbury shoppers for decades. Today, some books will be pulled from shelves using ladders from O.O. Rufty’s General Store, a mainstay in downtown Salisbury that closed its doors in 2005 after 100 years in business.
All of this gives the shop a connection to the town and its history.
It also creates the perfect setting for an independent bookstore, where the main purpose is to share with that community a passion for books and reading.
“Our goal,” says Safrit, “is to provide our customers with the best book experience they’ve ever had.”
Literary Bookpost has assembled a selection of books based on its customers’ preferences and can provide reading experiences that are in tune with a variety of interests. The store also wants to be well-rounded, offering an eclectic selection.
“Our selections are based on what our customers like and not out of a desire to compete with chain bookstores,” Safrit says. “We carry mainstream titles, but we also provide books that are off the beaten path.”
A love of reading is at the heart of every interaction at Literary Bookpost. Tags on shelves mark “Staff Picks” and invite conversation by encouraging customers to ask Safrit or other staff members for thoughts on the book.
It’s evident that their suggestions and the insights they share come from personal experience with the books on the shelves.
“We have an extremely well-read staff,” Safrit adds. “Ask us for advice, and 99 percent of the time we can put exactly the right kind of book in your hands.”
110 South Main Street
Salisbury, N.C. 28144