Henry Bowers is a longtime Quail Ridge Books and Music customer and friend of its former owner, Nancy Olson, and lives near the Wade Avenue bookstore.
So, when Olson saw Bowers approaching her in the store Wednesday, she stretched out her arms.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she said as they embraced.
Quail Ridge Books announced Wednesday that it’s leaving the Ridgewood Shopping Center, where it has been for nearly 20 years, for a space in North Hills about five miles away. The store plans to vacate its current space in March and open in the Lassiter District of North Hills – home of Total Wine, Gena Chandler and Lululemon on the north side of Lassiter Mill Road – in early April.
“It’s OK, it’s not that far,” Bowers told Olson, echoing the sentiments of many inside the Beltline shoppers who said they were disappointed but plan to remain loyal customers.
Quail Ridge, which opened in the Quail Corners shopping center on Falls of Neuse Road in 1984, is perhaps Raleigh’s most popular bookstore.
It regularly hosts both local and big name authors like Pat Conroy, known for “The Prince of Tides,” as well as television personalities and political figures like president Jimmy Carter. The staff has won awards, and the store – with its gas fireplace – has a cozy, neighborhood feel.
The staff hopes to preserve that atmosphere when it moves, said Lisa Poole, who bought the store from Olson in 2013. Quail Ridge is relocating to a space that’s about 2,000 smaller because Poole couldn’t reach a lease renewal with the landlord – not because the store is under financial constraints, she said.
Staff will not be cut, Poole added. North Hills, which has 128 businesses and no book stores, has recruited Quail Ridge for years, Poole said.
While the move takes Quail Ridge further from N.C. State University and Meredith College, which it partners with, it plants the store near a higher number of grade schools, Poole said. It’s also likely to boost business, even in a smaller space.
“(North Hills) has lots of restaurants, shopping and lots of walking space, so you can do different things and then go on over to the book store,” Poole said. “It just has everything there.”
The news was bittersweet for many regulars who want to see Quail Ridge do well but aren’t crazy about the change.
Jeff Wilkinson, a fourth-grade teacher at nearby Lacy Elementary School, often visits Quail Ridge after school to shop for his class and his 2-year-old daughter. Wilkinson spends hundreds of dollars at the store for his class each year.
“It’s gonna make my trip a little more difficult, but I’m glad they’re doing well,” he said, looking through books from the “Those Darn Squirrels” children’s series.
Others were more blunt.
“I just hate it,” said Woody Woodard, who lives near Five Points with his wife, Mary. They have so many books from Quail Ridge that they’ve run out of space, Mary said.
“We’re probably closer to North Hills, but it’s more congested,” she said of the traffic.
Asked if they’ll continue to shop at Quail Ridge for their reading needs – fiction for her, nonfiction for him – they didn’t hesitate.
“Are you kidding?” Woodard said. “Of course we will.”