Downtown booksellers turn a page

The used-book-store scene in downtown Asheville is changing. One store is closing, a new one has opened and two others are staying put—despite recent rumors to the contrary.

Buy the book: The Friends of Buncombe County Libaries has opened a used book store inside Pack Memorial Library. The store, dubbed Bookends, offers paperbacks and hardbacks, with proceeds going to the library-support group. Photo By Jason Sandford

Amelia and Gene Woolf, who have been selling books for five years at Atlantic Books and Folk Art, plan to shut down in March. The couple has been in the book business for 30 years, Amelia Woolf said, and it’s “time for us to get out.”

The store’s packed shelves include everything from fiction to volumes about the region, art, architecture, the Civil War and more. The books will still be available, but they’ll be sold out of area antique malls, according to Woolf.

Why close up shop? Rent for the 15 Broadway location is increasing, Woolf said, and she and her husband, who moved to Asheville from Charleston, are looking forward to some travel time.

“We’ve been very appreciative to the Asheville response to the store. We really would like to thank our Asheville customers. It’s been a good five years,” Woolf said.

The store will close March 14, but most of the books will be moved out by the end of February, Woolf said.

While one store is closing, another has opened. The Friends of Buncombe County Libraries has opened “Bookends” inside Pack Memorial Library on Haywood Street. The store name refers “to the place where books end up,” said library spokeswoman Tammy Silver.

A grouping of shelves and bins at the rear of the library’s main floor, the store offers used paperbacks and hardbacks for adults and children. Prices range from 50 cents to $3, with most books priced at $1. There are plans to sell music and movies as well, Silver said. The store is open during regular library hours.

The store’s proceeds go to the Friends of Buncombe County Libraries. An annual book sale in October, which is normally the big fundraiser for library-booster group, won’t be held this year. If the bookstore continues to do well, the sale may not return, Silver said.

A couple of other booksellers plan to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Downtown Books & News has no plans to move from its Lexington Avenue location, according to owner Emoke B’Racz, despite rumors of a move to West Asheville. And The Captain’s Bookshelf, which offers fine and rare books for sale, also plans to stay put. A proposed sale of the Page Avenue building that houses the store fell through, so the shop plans to stay, at least for now.


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One thought on “Downtown booksellers turn a page

  1. Ed Gunn

    I thought I might comment on the C-T article about upscale tourism, but comments seem to have disintegrated. I want to say that I’ve visited Charleston several times and it’s downtown seems to have disintegrated in a different way — aside from historic churches, mostly predictable galleries, and admittedly grand architecture, there is little shopping for “upscale” tourists, assuming they are there to discover and buy. There are a few upscale antique stores, yet no old bookstores, baseball card shops, philatelist shops, or other indigenous, I hate to say, quirky, retail outlets — and the craft market in the old confederate marketplace can’t be in their stead. All of which is to say that other southern cities have “been there.” I don’t believe that old folks’ “nostalgia” describes the inherent historic value and charm of these “out of the way” shops. (perhaps “out of the way” is key.) The street in Charleston aligning Sak’s has little more than stores that can be found in any upscale mall. It’s a mistake which I think will eventually caust Charleston, and one which planners for Asheville should avoid. Downtown, intensely interesting bookstores should not only remain but current downtown Asheville merchants and perhaps even the City should seek ways to support their continued presence, to support a unique and valuable business environment which can continue to draw tourists seeking excellence. It is dispiriting and, ultimately depressing for both Americans and foreign guests, to visit historic cities and be greeted with the same retail outlets available anywhere else on the planet. It is I know extremely difficult for leaders in Asheville to not only realize this but to fight it, but it should become an essential concern.

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