RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — On any given night in Raleigh, dozens of readers are tucked inside of Quail Ridge Books in North Hills. Some spend time reading snippets of books, some browse the shelves, and some spend time listening to their own favorite authors who pop in for events.
Like on Sept. 26, when Mary Kay Andrews stopped at the bookstore while touring for her latest novel.
“It’s like a homecoming for me, it’s a family reunion,” Andrews said.
Bookstores like Quail Ridge Books offer that sense of family and a sense of community.
“It’s a personal feeling, there’s a connection,” Andrews said.
While Quail Ridge Books has established themselves as a staple in the community, newer independent bookstores are also taking the area by storm. Golden Fig Books in Carrboro is another example.
“Carrboro has needed a bookstore, they’ve been without a bookstore now for over a decade,” David Bradley, the owner, said.
The store expanded from one location in Durham to a second location in Carrboro earlier this year. They’re one of hundreds of newly opened independent bookstores across the nation.
According to the American Bookseller Association, 254 new independent bookstores opened across the country in 2022. The group’s membership grew from 2,209 member booksellers in 2020 to 2,593 members in 2023.
The Greater Raleigh Area Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have exact numbers on how many booksellers have opened shop in the last few years, but browsing through their online small business insight database you can see a number of them have opened in the area since 2020.
So, what’s behind this booming support for independent bookstores?
“I think in general people are just recognizing the value of these sort of community institutions, especially if you have a community like Carrboro, like Durham, that is very tight knit,” Bradley said.
It’s that community and that relationship with booksellers who don’t have books stacked in a warehouse, but rather hand pick what’s on their shelves, that differentiates these stores from others such as Barnes & Noble.
“It’s a lot more concerned with what our booksellers are reading, what are books that we find really valuable and we want to push for the community to read?” Bradley explained.
Victoria Scott-Miller personally knows every book on her shelves inside of Liberation Station in Downtown Raleigh.
“Every book that is on the shelf, we have read as a family because the one thing we didn’t want was for people to come in and ask about a particular book or have book recommendations that they are looking for and us not be able to talk about it in its fullness,” Scott-Miller said.
She started selling books centered around the stories of Black children years ago, but opened her physical location earlier this year.
“What our bookstore does, and independent bookstores as a whole, what it does is it allows that to be a playground of activation and discovery and enchantment,” Scott-Miller said.
And readers across the Triangle are buying in and showing support to these local shops.
“To give them obviously our business, get our books, and then events like this, I think it’s great to come out as another way to support them,” said Clare Paxton, an avid reader who went to Quail Ridge Books to see Mary Kay Andrews speak.
“Can you get books cheaper? Yes. There’s no denying that. But can you get what you need for yourself and your community from a big box store? And the answer is no,” Andrews said.