Welcome back to Bookspot of the Week where we spotlight a fantastic independent bookstore that might be near you! This week we interviewed Lisa Nance with Downtown Books & News. This unique bookspot is located at 67 North Lexington Avenue in Asheville, North Carolina. If you find yourself near downtown Asheville, be sure to check them out!
How did your bookspot transition from concept to reality?
DBN was an offshoot of the pretty famous Malaprops (also in Asheville NC). We buy and sell used and out-of-print books while they handle new books and local authors. Between us, we have your needs covered: that was the idea. DBN has been around since 1988; Malaprops opened in 1982.
What do you feel is unique to your bookspot?
We have been at this location in Asheville, open every day, through snow, Christmas, and COVID for 33 years. Asheville has changed a lot in that time, and you can see the reflection of that eclectic history in our bookstore.
If you had infinite space, what might you add to the bookspot?
We already have a pretty large store! I’d use more space to bring in even more inventory from local artists & Zine Makers.
How do you feel your library fits into your local community?
We buy 90% of our inventory directly from our local community! We display & sell the work of local artists. Our merchandise is printed by a small local printer. Our zines are made by locals. Our books are purchased for either store credit or cash by people who live here. Our selection of books is determined by the pattern of those cumulative purchases. By offering cash we can support anyone who lives here fiscally. By offering credit at twice its value we connect with returning locals—even while being a trafficked tourist spot.
What does your bookspot offer that a chain or online retailer can’t?
I think that used bookstores can be really hard to create in the chain model, by their nature. You can’t just order more of that book everyone likes from that place you get the books from. You can’t even (we can’t) have an online database. We are very well organized, but this is a place where you have to be open to the magic of finding something special and what you didn’t know you wanted. That vibe isn’t really the specialty of chains.
Do you hand-pick your staff to create a specific environment?
We have four employees and a very special boss who picked them out. I believe I can speak for everyone when I say we feel interconnected: with each other, the safe environment we create together, and the books.
What about your store do you think appeals to your neighborhood?
The store is quirky and cute and could not be replicated. We are located on a historically funky little strip of downtown Asheville next to a fabulous Indian restaurant, vintage stores, side-by-side coffee and tea shops, a crystal store, a beautiful rambling antique mall, two record stores, and more than one brewery.
Do you have any staff picks or releases we should watch out for?
We have a staff favorites nook! That’s where we keep the treasure, including the picks of our two-dog staff.
Do you tailor your inventory according to your community?
We buy our books from the community, so it is a very natural reflection of their tastes—curated for maximum effect by our buyers.
Is there anything else that you’d like our audience to know?
A) We are dog-friendly, bring your pup!
B) We sponsor the Prison Books Program and the Tranzmission Prison Program. They are two organizations that share space with us; they work to get books to prisoners who want them. Donate books to them!
C) Asheville has at least five, non-chain bookstores: us, Firestorm, Bagatelle Books, Battery Park Book Exchange, and Malaprops. The town even has its own online out-of-print book search engine: Biblio.com. Each bookstore has its own niche, and I urge you to visit us all!
Be sure to check out more Bookspots here!