Beautiful Mural at Circle City Books

Warm weather and sun in North Carolina brought the completion of the Circle City Books wall mural last week. Onlookers and photographers were a constant presence as the final strokes were applied by artists Bailey Friedman (Number One Daughter) and her friend Emily Kerscher. Then, off into the sunset rode Bailey, jet-bound to New Zealand, for an indefinite adventure of indeterminate duration. But what she and Emily left behind was a sensation that scarcely goes an hour without being remarked upon by another newcomer who is just astonished to see such a sight in Pittsboro.

book mural in Pittsboro
The Great Book Mural in Pittsboro

Though the mural is finished, I’ve conceived of a plan to extend the process (some might say drag it out) for several more months. With an eye toward the good opinion of the community, and because I think I can still squeeze a couple more books onto the wall, I have determined to hold a contest to elect an additional two or three titles to be added this summer. They will be placed horizontally across the top of some of the existing books. My proposal is to allow visitors to the store to nominate up to three titles each, and after a several months of voting, paint the new books on the wall in June. It will be especially interesting to me to see if the choices favor local authors or nationally known authors.

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Week 1 in the Books for New Pittsboro Bookshop

I finished my first week as a bookseller by closing up and dashing to a wedding, late of course, but there, nonetheless. Instead of disapproving looks from the on-time guests, and censure from the bride, I was welcomed with understanding and enthusiasm. I am the Quixotic bookman, tilting at windmills and Nooks and iPads, and slack must be cut. I get the same treatment in the store. I can’t count how many people told me this week how happy they are that there’s finally a bookstore in Pittsboro. It’s as if I’d opened the only health clinic in a remote wilderness. The customers are thanking me for opening my store as sincerely as I thank them for stopping by. But they also note how “brave” I am to be entering the bookstore business, by which they really mean “nuts,” and certainly, deep down, some of them mean “stupid.” But that’s nothing I haven’t thought myself over these past three months.

After a strong first day on Saturday, there was little business Sunday through Tuesday. Things picked up by the end of the week, and Saturday produced 35 sales which, if repeated every weekend, are enough to keep me open.  I have been trying to systematically calculate what books and what categories are most popular, and after a month or two, I’ll draw some conclusions. But I suppose I can make some assumptions about my customers based on the fact that of the hundreds of books that left the shop last week, only one was a romance novel. Perhaps the romance readers haven’t heard about the store yet, but I sold a lot of history and literature this week and I answered a lot of questions about interesting books and recorded three pages of varied book wants. It took about three days for the new books coming into the store to accumulate beyond my ability to keep up with them. Buying them and pricing them is one thing, but finding shelf space is another. I tried to fill the shelves before I opened, and for the most part I did, but I’ve added another four or five hundred books and by this time next month, my store may look like the Collyer brothers’ apartment. Besides that I still have 10,000 books in storage that I need to get into the store sometime. If it sounds like I perhaps need to suspend book acquisitions, I can’t disagree. The idea of an employee is still a little down the road – filling in a w-2 form and other accompanying work may be too much in the early days. Still, if a box of cookbooks finds its way into the store, I can’t imagine not at least looking through them – who knows when I’ll finally find the elusive “Kosher Cooking in Ireland.”

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Pittsboro Bookshop is Now Open

I opened the door and people materialized – right before my eyes. It was surprising, like when I spent three hours putting together a remote controlled plane for my son and the thing actually flew! Our first customer browsed, then several hours later returned and bought a $50 Far Side cartoon collection. The actual first sale was a first edition of Annie Dillard’s “The Maytrees,” followed by Eco’s “The Name of the Rose.” We sold a biography of Richard III, William Manchester’s “The Power and the Glory,” Gunter Grass, Shel Silverstein, H.G. Wells… well, I shouldn’t try to list every book, but I was strangely affected by every sale. Many of the books were titles that I had picked out myself, believing they were books that someone would want, or at least that they were books that I thought someone should want. And when they sold, I felt gratified, like when you pick a horse and it wins the derby. And I was gratified to hear so many customers express their excitement about having a bookstore in town.  And I was surprised by the number of people that came in not knowing that we were a new store. These were people passing through Pittsboro who stopped because they saw the large “BOOKS” sign that we hung outside, as a placeholder until our real sign arrives.

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