That crisp-edged, clean paper smell. Smooth, colorful dust jackets containing worlds waiting to be explored. Nothing beats walking into an independent bookstore. Brian Lampkin calls the experience transformative. “At every city I visit, my first stop is the independent bookstore,” he says. “Each store has its own vibe. Whatever the atmosphere, you spend an hour or two there and discover a world all its own.”

Stroll down South Elm Street, look for the sign with the fox, and step into Greensboro’s bright new bookstore, where co-owners Brian Lampkin (left) and Steve Mitchell will help you pick out something you’ll love.

Lampkin created his own utopia with downtown Greensboro’s Scuppernong Books, housed in an 1800s-era building that he and fellow writers Steve Mitchell and Greg Grieve reclaimed last year. Hand-carved oak bookshelves line the store’s exposed brick walls. Natural light pours in from the building’s original windows. Whiffs of coffee percolating in the café mingle with the happy sounds of clinking glasses.

“This isn’t just a place to get books and leave; it’s a place to talk about them,” Mitchell says. “Even things that don’t have to do with books.” On Monday nights, music lovers sway to live performances. In addition to readings by local and national favorites like Lee Smith and Natalie Goldberg, Scuppernong hosts unexpected events, like a Dubious Talent Show and Wordsomnia, a 24-hour reading marathon with a new writer taking the stage every 10 minutes. Book clubs, French clubs, even a local beekeeping society gather for discussion.

“We love what we’re doing,” Mitchell says. “We love books and we love talking to people about them. As the pendulum swings away from big-box stores, people value a space where they can have a relationship with the people at the store.” That’s especially true for bibliophiles in Greensboro, who were previously without an independent bookstore for almost 10 years.

And that feeling Lampkin describes? Kira Larson, who curates children’s books and runs Tuesday’s storytime, thinks it has to do with being in a place where you can sit for a while and  just be. “Here, it doesn’t matter if you purchase something, or if you’re here to meet other people or relax with a glass of wine and embrace a sense of solitude,” she says. “That’s what makes Scuppernong Books more than just a bookstore.”

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Robin Sutton Anders is a writer based in Greensboro.