Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Eco-Libris' Bookstores Series: interview with Erin Thompson of Black Bear Books

Eco-Libris' bookstores program keeps growing and currently includes 24 bookstores in the U.S., Ireland and Canada. On our bookstores' series we present you with the bookstores that are taking part in the program and the people behind them.

Today we have the pleasure to present you with Black Bear Books of Boone, NC and Erin Thompson, the store's owner, whom we interviewed here.

When Black Bear Books was established? Where’s the name coming from?

Black Bear Books has been around since 2004, when we moved to our current location. Prior to that the store was called The Book Warehouse, a name given to it by a previous owner. Moving to our present location really gave us the opportunity to make the store into what we wanted it to be, and we thought it deserved a new name. The name Black Bear Books came from all of the Black Bears that live in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and in particular from the bear that lives on the mountain where my parents live.

What's the most special characteristic of Black Bear Books?

Definitely our customers! We get a really great mix of locals, people who live here in the spring and summer months, and visitors to the area. There’s nothing better that having a job where you get to talk about books and authors all day to all sorts of different people. Outside of our customers, I would say that a really great feature of our store is how eclectic it is. We’ve got sections dedicated to regional literature, a re-vamped kids section, and of course our green living section, which is always a big hit!

How long you are with the store?

I’ve been with the store for just over a year, when I moved to the area to pursue a master’s degree. Moving from a big city to Boone was a big change, but definitely a positive one. The High Country is so eco-conscious and they do a great job of making local living a priority, which for small stores like ours, is really important. The great outdoor activities and amazing views don’t hurt either!

Your store is a family business and I'm sure it has seen and went through changes over the years - can you mention the ones you find most interesting?

My dad is the head-honcho at the store, and I’ve loved being able to work with him and learn from him – he’s a pretty smart guy, despite what I thought when I was a teenager! There have been a lot of changes at the store; probably one of the biggest has been adding the espresso bar and the wireless cafĂ©. We get quite a few people to stop by to check their e-mail or study and have a cup of coffee. Owning an independent bookstore is a tough business to be in – even though people love to comment on how having a bookstore in the mountains is their dream job (it’s definitely mine!), so we try to change things often to draw people back into the store.

What do people like most about the store?

I think people really enjoy the hunt for the perfect book. We carry a lot of remainders and our booksellers have great taste, so you never know what you’re going to find. We’ve got a staff that has superhero powers when it comes to finding the next book you want to read, even if you’re not sure what that is.

Can you tell me a bit about the events in the store?

We host a lot of local and regional authors, although attendance is always disappointingly low, so I try not to schedule people unless I know they’ll be a big draw. We have an exciting event coming up though! Diana Gabaldon, the author of the NYT best-selling “Outlander” series is visiting the store during the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, so we’re having an evening reception and also a booth out at the Games.

Are there any relationship between the store and the local library/ies?

Somewhat. We give people directions to the library a lot! We work pretty closely with a local writing group, who is based out of the library, so we support them indirectly through that. We also work with them on prizes that they give to their different contest winners.

What is the best selling book right now? What is the all times best-selling book?

Actually, our best-selling book right now (outside of the High School’s summer reading) is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I was so excited when I looked it up and it was a green book! Kingsolver is a regional author as well, and has a restaurant based on the book’s principles about an hour away in Abingdon, VA. This book has been on my Staff Rec’s shelf for about two months now, and I guess it shows! The all-time best selling book is a children’s book by another regional author, Jan Karon, called “Miss Fannie’s Hat”.

What would be your favorite book in the store?

That’s a tough question – I don’t think I can answer that one! Probably the book I recommend most (and my copy is certainly well-read) is “March” by Geraldine Brooks, about John March from “Little Women”. Brooks does a fantastic job of taking some of literature’s most beloved characters and telling the rest of their story.

Any special message you want to send to book lovers in Boone, NC?

I want to thank them! I know it’s always easier to jump online to order a book, but by staying loyal they’ve taken advantage of our special-ordering discounts, reduced their carbon footprint, and kept us in business!

So if you're anywhere near Boone, NC you're invited to visit the store. You won't regret it! And of course, if you're purchasing a book from the 25,000 quality hand picked new and discount books at the store, don't forget to check at the counter the opportunity to balance it out by planting a tree with Eco-Libris and you'll also receive our sticker on spot.

Black Bear Books
Address: 2146 Blowing Rock Rd., Boone, NC 28607
Tel.: 828.264.4636

Past guests on our series:

Raz @ Eco-Libris