Visitors hoping to find out what’s kept Quail Ridge Books & Music going for 30 years might start by asking readers cozied up in chairs what they love most.
Next, they could seek out an employee eagerly offering recommendations for tips on the store’s inner workings and then follow it up with a reading of the long list of honors bestowed upon the store.
Or, they could just take a look around the bathroom.
There, autographed profiles of authors who have visited the store for signings and readings line the walls. They’re a testament to the legions of happy authors and readers who call the store a second home, relationships that original owner Nancy Olson cultivated from the earliest days of the store.
“If I could write books like Nancy sells them, I’d win the Nobel Prize,” says an inscribed bathroom photo from novelist Clyde Edgerton.
Rene Martin, the events coordinator for Quail Ridge, can remember the day she heard a small boy who must have been a Redwall fantasy series fan yell with gusto from inside, “Brian Jacques peed here!”
“From the beginning, she knew that authors were key,” Martin said of Olson. “That was one of her main principles, to bring authors and readers together.”
On Sunday, Quail Ridge will mark its 30th anniversary with a reception for authors and readers, as well as a tribute to Olson.
The store was founded in 1984, and its first home was 1,900 square feet in the Quail Corners shopping center, from which the store got its distinctive name.
Eventually, the store moved and expanded to 9,400 square feet on Wade Avenue, with steady sales of more than $3 million annually.
Last year, Olson sold the store to Lisa Poole, who had long dreamed of owning a bookstore.
Poole said that as far as the store is concerned, she sticks to the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
She credits the staff with keeping the store running smoothly since the transition.
“Because of their experience, professionalism, and dedication and love of books Quail Ridge Books runs like a well oiled machine. I’m very fortunate,” she said in a written comment.
Oren Treicher, chief executive officer of the American Booksellers Association, said the smooth transition is just one more way Quail Ridge is a leader among independent bookstores.
When owners decide to retire, stores can disappear. But Quail Ridge is an example of how the transition can be made well.
“I have nothing but the highest regard and admiration for Nancy, now for Lisa and their extraordinary staff. They represent the very, very best,” Treicher said.
Sunday’s celebration will include authors Charles Frazier, Allan Gurganus, Jill McCorkle, Margaret Maron, Clyde Edgerton, Angela Davis-Gardner and Randall Keenan.
Frazier, author of “Cold Mountain,” first walked into the store in 1986 and was immediately struck by the friendly, welcoming atmosphere. He liked being able to meet authors he admired and get to know new ones.
At the time, he had written one travel book and had a short story published in an anthology, volumes Olson always kept on the shelf once she learned of them.
“Having someone take seriously your potential is very helpful,” he said.
Years later, Olson championed “Cold Mountain,” which went on to win a National Book Award. At the awards ceremony, Olson was there as a representative of independent bookstores.
“She was the one we all wanted to be there,” Frazier said.