Midtown Raleigh News

Raleigh’s Quail Ridge bookstore has new owner

The new owner of Quail Ridge Books & Music says she wants to preserve the qualities that have made it one of the region’s most successful and beloved independent bookstores.

Lisa Robie Poole will acquire the store, the store’s founder Nancy Olson announced Friday. The sales price was not disclosed.

Poole is a member of a prominent Raleigh family and wife of Waste Industries CEO Lonnie C. “Ven” Poole III. Ven Poole is son of Lonnie C. Poole Jr., founder and former CEO of Waste Industries and a large benefactor of N.C. State University.

Olson introduced Poole to a group of customers and authors gathered at the store Friday afternoon. Poole said she has no plans to change the store and will keep the current employees.

“I think that the Olsons have created something wonderful here, iconic,” she said. “It’s very well-known locally and nationally, and I can’t imagine coming in here and trying to do something different with that.”

Olson founded the store in 1984 on Falls of Neuse Road, and later moved it to Wade Avenue, where it occupies a 9,400-square-foot space. It stocks 70,000 titles and sold $3 million in books and other items in 2011. The store is especially well-known for readings and book signings by famous authors such as Al Gore, Dan Quayle, Jimmy Carter and David Sedaris.

Olson said she is very happy about choosing Poole.

“She understands the mission that we have here,” Olson said. “The basic mission is to get our children to read.”

Olson said Poole was one of three parties who wanted to buy the store. The two hadn’t met before, and what set Poole apart in the end was her personality and their instant rapport.

“Look at the smile,” Olson said. “I liked her personally. I liked her demeanor, just down-to-earth. She didn’t try to be a smart aleck or prove that she knew everything or whatever. I just knew we would get along real well.”

Poole has never run a bookstore before, and Olson is staying on for the first three months as an advisor to teach Poole the business and will remain available to advise Poole indefinitely. The sale will officially take place on July 31, and Poole will begin working mid-August.

“I’m going to get to know this bookstore top to bottom and all the folks that run it with the help of Nancy,” Poole said.

Olson thanked her customers and employees for taking the leap of faith of new ownership, and Poole thanked the Olsons and those gathered for the opportunity.

“I’ll work really hard,” Poole said. “I’m a good people person, so I hope that I’ll be the friendly face when you walk in the door.”

Olson, who is 72, decided to sell the store last November so that she can retire.

“I’m going to read like the devil,” she said. “I will have so much more time to read, and I’m happy about that.”

For Poole, the purchase is a dream-come-true.

“I’ve always wanted to have a bookstore,” she said. “It’s been sort of a fantasy of mine for a while.”

Her husband, Ven Poole, said she has been talking about owning a bookstore since they moved back to Raleigh in 1990.

“I read about the potential sale in the paper and went straight home and sat down and plopped the paper down on the table and said, ‘There’s your bookstore,’” he said.

Author and N.C. State professor Elaine Orr has launched multiple books at the store. After watching Olson introduce the new owner, Orr said Poole is a wonderful choice.

“Nancy is such a keen person and such a keen business woman, I know it’s going to be good,” Orr said.

The store has a special place in the community, especially because of its focus on service, said customer Tony Delmedico of Raleigh.

Delmedico said he always comes to the bookstore at Christmas to get book recommendations for his daughters. He simply tells the employees his daughters’ ages and interests and employees point him to books they will like.

“So I’ve become a hero at home for my book selections over the years,” he said.

Just before the announcement, Delmedico was reading a book in one of the cushioned chairs at the store. He said he liked to come there to read for three reasons: “The smell. The space. The variety.”