A laid-back bookstore to open in downtown Raleigh

jmgiglio@newsobserver.comMay 23, 2013 

Charles Wilkes and Chris Tonelli love books.

The friends and business partners are taking a unique approach to sharing that passion by opening So & So Books, a downtown Raleigh independent bookstore, in a quaint, 300-square-foot space in the front of the in situ studio architecture firm on Person Street.

“We both have pretty serious attachments to books,” Tonelli said. “We … heard that downtown Raleigh needs a bookstore.”

Because So & So’s space is tight, the pair has to choose its book selection carefully. They plan to stock books from major genres, including Pulitzer and National Book Awards winners, poetry and children’s books, along with offering a section for local authors. They will also take orders for books that are not available in the store.

Wilkes and Tonelli want to connect with customers by spending time with them and learning what they like and dislike. They hope this will help them be able to offer advice on book purchases.

The two also plan to host events such as readings and book clubs, and are interested in allowing others to use the space for their own functions.

“(We) hope to become a strong part of the community,” Wilkes said. “If someone is having an event, we’ll give our time, and (we’re) hoping it goes both ways. We both love Raleigh and want the burgeoning retail side to go well.”

The space offers a lounge area, and the two hope to eventually build partnerships with other local businesses to sell items such as coffee and food.

“(We want) to be a place where people hang out and browse and read, not just a retail interaction,” said Tonelli.

Wilkes and Tonelli have other jobs. Wilkes works with books at two other stores, and Tonelli writes poetry and is an assistant to the director of administration at N.C. State University Libraries. The two are enlisting the help of in situ’s staff to keep the bookstore operating when they aren’t there. The firm’s workers will handle sales and ring up customers and will get a percentage of the transactions that they make.

Wilkes and Tonelli plan to be in the bookstore on nights and weekends and are working to establish a social media presence through Facebook and Twitter to let customers know when they will be in the shop and when the place is open. They also hope to have more structured hours in the near future.

“We will Tweet out when we are going to be there,” Tonelli said.

So & So Books is at 704 N. Person St., next to Person Street Pharmacy. Find the store’s hours on Facebook at facebook/soandsobooks or on Twitter @soandsobooks.

Get ready to get fit, Chapel Hill.

TrySports, a national health and fitness retail “experience,” is expanding into the Triangle, taking an almost 12,000-square-foot space next to University Mall’s Southern Season.

Hal Smith, TrySports’ chief executive officer, describes the facility as a place that will “help people reach their fitness and health goals.”

The store offers more than just workout equipment. It will also be a place where everyone can go to exercise and learn.

“(It’s) very important to understand that we’re not looking to just have elite athletes,” Smith said. “(They will be) part of our customer base, but we really want to welcome everyone in the community that wants to live healthy.”

The shop will focus on four key categories: running, cycling, yoga and fitness, with experts and services geared toward each of those areas.

TrySports will offer in-store demonstrations, classes and programs, including group walks, yoga classes, clinics by coaches and therapists and group bike rides. The shop will also have an endless pool that will be used for classes and coaching, and a track where runners and walkers can try out shoes.

“Every day of the week, we have an activity that’s free for customers to get active,” Smith said.

TrySports sells premium, well-known brands and offers comprehensive fittings on goods such as running shoes and bikes. Customers will also be able to test products in the store.

The shop will feature a store within its store. The company has partnered with Zobha, a yoga and pilates activewear company, to set up a shop inside the Chapel Hill facility.

Smith said that customer service and the staff’s knowledge of fitness are key to making the store stand out from other sporting goods retailers.

“It all comes to life with personal service,” Smith said. “(We are) looking for the customer to have an experience like they wouldn’t have anywhere else.”

Smith expects TrySports to open in September.

The owners of Kings Barcade and Neptune’s Parlour have opened a food pick-up window on the street level of the downtown Raleigh Martin Street complex.

Garland is using the “slow food fast” concept by offering portable dishes inspired by Indian and Asian flavors. It plans on using the window to test menu items, including steamed buns – breads that are filled with various meats, vegetables and spices and then steamed – for a few months until the rest of the restaurant and bar are ready.

“The portable format gives us a chance to finish the dining room and kitchen and get it the way we want it running,” said Cheetie Kumar, co-owner of the three facilities and guitarist for the rock band Birds of Avalon.

Kumar expects to ease into normal hours of operation and eventually offer a late-night menu. The restaurant is at 14 W. Martin St.

Here are a couple of upcoming grand openings:

Northern Tool + Equipment is holding a celebration for its new Cary location from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday at 1297-A Buck Jones Road in South Hills Mall & Plaza.

Nadeau-Furniture With a Soul will hold the grand opening of its first Triangle store from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 31. The 6,000-square-foot store, at 426 Woodburn Road in Cameron Village in Raleigh, sells handmade furniture.

Giglio: 919-829-4649; @shoptalk_nando.

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