Small, independent bookstores making a comeback

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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Brian Lampkin thought he was done with the bookstore business.

"I had no intention of opening a bookstore here. It’s hard work you know,” said Lampkin, owner of Scuppernong Books.

He had done well in Buffalo, New York owning a store for 12 years, but when he moved to Greensboro he found that his new chapter in his life would actually be a familiar story.

“The city just called out for it. You could see it was missing in downtown Greensboro,” he said.

“The deciding factor was walking into this rundown dilapidated space, walking in the door and saying ‘yes, this is going to work,’” he added.

And it is working, after being open for just two years, Scuppernong Books has been named one of the South’s best bookstores by Southern Living Magazine.

“We're not big headed about it, but we really appreciate it,” Lampkin said.

It’s especially an honor considering that there aren’t many local independent bookstores left.

Competition from online retailers and big box bookstores has caused many small, independent stores to struggle in maintaining an audience.

Beth Saunders, owner of Tannery books, knows the feeling.

“Right in the middle of the great recession and you're opening a bookstore. Everybody said ‘you're crazy,’” she said.

Her storefront in Archdale closed in 2013 after opening in 2011.

“This is a small town and we don't have the big clientele like say Greensboro with its six colleges. It was very hard to keep it up by myself,” Saunders said.

She maintained the online business and has now found another option.

Today, her store is housed in the Bush Hill Trading Post on Interstate Drive in Archdale.

Being there gave her flexibility. The trading post handles the store during the day. She resupplies the inventory and keeps the station managed.

She keeps an inventory that is unique from chain bookstores.

“Here I have High Point history and vintage books and local authors, things that are a little bit more with the local market,” Saunders added.

What has worked for Scuppernong Books is that it offers more than books – it has branded itself on offering an experience.

The shop has events every night of the week, brings in writers from across the country, and has become a venue for book clubs and live music.

"I think people were desperate for this kind of place and I'm just really gratified by how thankful people are that we opened,” Lampkin said.