Washington NC is a sleepy town of 10,112, unless someone died or was born since we visited. It was deserted when we arrived, but it was 100 degrees in the shade and maybe most humans preferred to survive and declined strolling outdoors. Self titled “The Heart of the Inner Banks,” it’s bisected by the waters of the Pamlico river. There are historic houses to view from the street, ghost walks, sailing, and other leisurely activities. After a great chat with the tourist bureau, we learned of an indie in town. It sounded intriguing, and has a brand new addition, a coffee shop. I Can’t Believe It’s a Book Store–yes, that’s the name, is unusual in its location of a very old former bank. Imposing with large exterior columns, inside is full of surprises.
Gary Ceres and Rich Snow turned the tables on the usual progression of bookselling, and began as an online bookstore. Then they decided to open a brick and mortar shop. Briefly at a different location, they decided to move to accommodate a coffee shop. Claudia, the knowledgable and lovely bookman working while we visited, gave me a general idea of the history and current status of the indie. On Main Street, one cannot fail to find the shop. Outside are some racks of recent used titles. Inside are new releases in many genres and categories. The store holds varying products besides the written word. There is an extensive children’s section full of games, costumes, and crafts. In the center of the space, Coin Treasures Jewelry is displayed and sold by the craftsman, Aaron Eriksson. Lovely old and unique coins are artfully transformed into wearable money. Tee-shirts, political bumper stickers, tea, cards, spices, and many other products I can’t remember are available within the nooks and crannies. A couple of nooks, are old bank vaults! Yes, with barred gates open, one enters and finds DVDs and CDs stacked within a small space. Another vault has a variety of large history books, I believe, and another, the cards and bumper stickers. As you go through a vault you eventually come out on the other side to the coffee shop. It can be entered from a side door from the street, too, and is named, The Caffeinated Reader. It’s a very cool space with a bit of seating, serving coffee, espressos (.99 cents) cappuccinos, Americanos (I’ve no idea what beverage that is) teas and ‘specialty drinks” another mystery category. Fresh baked goods, and good old-fashioned candy bars, which I so appreciated were also at hand. The staff of one was quick, informative and quite helpful. My husband sampled the coffee and declared it dee-lish. So I asked Rich Snow, the espresso guy, if he thought the addition of the coffee shop had discernibly increased traffic to the bookstore, and how business in general was. He was enthusiastic about both. Considering the dog days of summer, I could well imagine little traffic, but he seemed quite pleased with the activity and we did observe other customers during our short stay. Plus, we did not arrive at early enough for either breakfast or lunch crowds and it was a week day. I’ve no doubt it probably fills up quite quickly in prime hours.
Visiting their facebook page and website, I noticed many events had been held in the bookstore, including an Easter egg hunt for kids. A comedian signed her book, and one of the owners gives ghost walks in town. It seems to serve as a hub for the town, or at least in combination with other vibrant businesses. I don’t believe I saw one B&N while in North Carolina, but perhaps I was avoiding their presence. Certainly there is no chain bookstore within driving distance–and that means wayyyyyyy far away as I’ve noticed the locals can and will drive massive miles to attain things not within their towns.
How will this wonderfully unique and single indie in Washington, North Carolina fair? Will the coffee shop make or break the bank, no pun intended? Everyone working at the store seemed to be optimistic and cheery, and genuinely so. But considering the horrible economic times this country is facing, and the many empty storefronts on Main Street, only time will tell if one more indie succumbs to the economic woes, or takes wads of money to the bank!
To see I Can’t Believe It’s a Book Store’s facebook page, go here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Cant-Believe-Its-a-Book-Store/108454652531136