A few months ago, our intrepid leader, Jaynie Royal, suggested that we, as members of an independent publisher’s community, undertake a challenging new adventure: to seek out independent book stores; talk with the people who own, run, and staff them; and celebrate these stores and staff in a continuing series on the Regal blog. Jaynie wanted to give store owners a chance to tell their stories and to inspire other bibliophiles locally, nationally, and across the globe to appreciate the essential role independent book stores play in the author-publisher-reader symbiosis.
We would write up the tales of our forays into the worlds of our counterparts to inform our readers about these bastions of literacy, to entertain our readers with our escapades, and to express our support and encouragement for the individuals and institutions that keep the indie scene vital and vibrant.
Here us our first installment.
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road
Raleigh, North Carolina
Quail Ridge Books: A Literary Haven in Raleigh, North Carolina
Bookstores, for me, have always been imbued with magic: their exterior signage, the glimpse of books and bindings through gleaming glass windows sound a magnet call that I am utterly helpless to resist. It little matters whether the bookshop is a dusty repository of the previously loved or a modern facility that houses the recently released, but it must be independent—chains necessarily lack the vibrant individuality that differentiates one store from the other.
Having recently moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, I was unacquainted with its literary scene and worried that quality independent bookstores might be in short supply. Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover the joy that is Quail Ridge Books—itself having recently moved from Ridgewood Shopping Center to its glorious new store in North Hills. For the owner and staff’s passionate support for independent authors, poets, and presses, for their ongoing collaboration with independent booksellers across the Piedmont, and for their unceasing devotion to the Raleigh writing and reading community, Quail Ridge Books deserves the inaugural place in our “Celebrating Indie Bookstores” blog series.
Quail Ridge Books, in its reincarnation in the North Hills shopping center, is an enticing space, one in which warm hues and artfully inscribed literary quotations decorate the walls. Reading nooks present inviting spaces to linger and browse while bright, brocaded armchairs with sink-in cushions are situated next to a faux gas fireplace or grouped in proximity to convenient tables that will host the inevitable stack of books you will end up carrying around with you.
Lisa Poole, the owner of Quail Ridge Books, René Martin, the events coordinator, and Sarah Goddin, the general manager, were kind enough to sit down with me one afternoon this summer to talk about the Quail Ridge Books enterprise. A lovely chat ensued between us four in a delightfully snug corner of the Young Adult fiction section.
The story began, as they usually do, at the beginnings of things, at “Once upon a time…,” when Quail Ridge Books’ founding editor, Nancy Olson, received a small inheritance from her uncle and used it to start the bookstore. She had recently moved from Virginia to Raleigh and had noticed the lack of independent book shops. Nancy moved the bookstore to Ridgewood Shopping Center in 1994, then Lisa Poole bought the store from Nancy when the latter retired in 2013.
Quail Ridge Books has sought to promote and nurture Raleigh readers and writers ever since with a vibrant event schedule that features a mix of local, national, and international authors. There is a lively writing community in the Triangle, and Quail Ridge Books accepts a fair number of books on consignment, some of which are self-published. Twice a year, their bestselling self-published authors come in to give a presentation. A quarterly event showcases North Carolina poets, a series of workshops for writers examines both traditional and self-publishing options, and other events help writers establish ways in which they can promote and market their work.
While adults seeking a warm and engaging book-purchasing, event-offering space emerge deeply satisfied, the next generation of readers is equally well catered to.
In the best tradition of bookstores (although lamentably this practice seems to be on the wane these days), Quail Ridge Books hosts story-time every Monday at ten-thirty for two- to five-year old Raleighlings. Bi-weekly and weekly summer book clubs tantalize five- to twelve-year olds with an array of intriguing titles. The Saturday previous to my visit, Quail Ridge Books had been jam-packed with kids from early morning till mid-afternoon, with Adam Rubin’s book Dragons Love Tacos the first offering in a wildly popular line-up. The afternoon saw the arrival of the Scholastic big bus, with local Scholastic authors, photo booths, and other exciting activities with the kids. “It was a great, great day,” René declared with a smile.
When one first walks through the doors at Quail Ridge Books, however—child and adult alike—the immediate impression is one of space, modern and convivial. It can be challenging indeed to marry the two: large can be lacking intimacy, modernity can be at the expense of warmth. And, for bookstores, the challenge doesn’t end there: one must, after all, pack in the shelving that allows for ready browsing, with aisle space for fellow booklovers to exchange a smile or two, so that one can peruse the spines from a little distance without feeling confined and hemmed in. Quail Ridge Books navigates these potential pitfalls masterfully. The walls are a warmly inviting shade of maroon, chandeliers add a decadent luxury to the browsing space, and the chairs—Oh, an entire blog post could be written on the chairs alone! They are upholstered in bright fabrics, with cushions deep and snug. And you realize, as you sink into one with books on your lap, that you are indeed welcome to stay and leaf through some favorite selections. For Quail Ridge Books is not about lining customers up, extracting from them their book-purchasing funds, and getting them out the door to make room for the new and next buyer. Quail Ridge Books, the store and the staff, are imbued with a passionate love of books and of sharing that passion with the Raleigh world. This dedication meant that the chair choice was no small matter. As Lisa, the owner of Quail Ridge Books, noted: “I have three daughters and when they were growing up, they always wanted to go to bookstores and sit in comfy seats. Not all bookstores have comfy seats, or any seats at all, so that was important: lots of comfy seats.” And so it occurs to me that Quail Ridge Books is like the Victorian library that we all wish we had at home with the winged back chair in front of the fireplace, innumerable books all around. Quail Ridge Books has one such library—and they are inviting us all in!
Most bookstores today understand that success is a collective endeavor—they rely not only upon a devoted following among the book-buying public, but also on a sense of fellowship among other book retailers. For last two years, as part of Independent Bookstore Day, Quail Ridge Books has been participating in a collaborative effort with other booksellers in the Piedmont, encouraging customers to become acquainted with as many indie bookstores as possible. In an age when brick-and-mortar stores are rapidly becoming eclipsed by online giants, Quail Ridge Books desires to underscore actively the importance of independent bookstores to our collective community. René also works closely with other bookstores on a number of other events: “We are all good friends. It really is wonderful to have colleagues with whom you can share stories and for whom you can provide support. We are not in competition; different kind of stores feature different kinds of books, and anytime that someone is happy with their experience in an independent bookstore, it helps all the other independent bookstores.”
Quail Ridge Books’ vibrant event schedule and robust support of the local writing community have made them a literary favorite in the Raleigh bookselling niche. Their draw, however, has extended beyond city and state. Frequently, devoted readers will travel from further afield, from four or five various states, in order to attend a much-anticipated reading event with a favorite national, international, or local author. These events are rare and exciting opportunities for fervent followers of specific authors; they provide readers a chance to see their heroes in person, to hear the authors read the words they themselves penned, to obtain an autograph perhaps, to forge a sense of connection beyond the printed page, all while enveloped by the warm intimate surrounds of Quail Ridge Books’ lovely space—a treat indeed that cannot be duplicated by a remote online service that will deliver the book to your door but offer nothing in the way of experience or community.
The Quail Ridge Wrap-Up
While I have resided in innumerable cities across the globe, I am delighted to have finally settled in Raleigh, N.C.—not just because of the quiet beauty of its wooded groves, its engaging museum scene, and variety of culinary offerings, but because it is home to Quail Ridge Books. Lisa, Sarah, and Rene are dedicated to fostering a vibrant literary connectivity between authors and readers, to providing warm support for local poets and self-published writers, and to implementing an exciting event schedule that significantly benefits the city of Raleigh. I am proud indeed to be a supporter of their beautiful new store.
Authored by: Jaynie Royal
 The Piedmont Triad (or simply the Triad) is a north-central region of the U.S. state of North Carolina that consists of the area within and surrounding the three major cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point.