Map of NC

Map of NC

April 1, 2024

An Interview with The Bookhouse

The Bookhouse is an independent bookstore in Winston-Salem, but it is also so much more than that. The owners, Tara Cool and Meghan Brown, told us about how they’ve created a place for gathering and community, as well as books. We were lucky enough to be able to ask them about their store, how they got to where they are, and what makes them stand out. Enjoy learning about The Bookhouse and its owners in the below interview!

You’ve been open for a year now. Has running a bookstore been what you imagined? What’s been the biggest surprise?

We opened our doors in July of 2023, and it has been a crazy ride. We have loved owning/operating a bookstore and getting to know our community. This has been both as fun and as difficult as we expected. We would say that our biggest surprise was the processes for licensing (both for food/drink and alcohol).

What advice would you give to yourself one year ago?

To be patient with ourselves as we navigate owning a business and getting to know our clientele. 

What’s it like running a bookstore with your sister?

It’s bittersweet. It’s great to work on a project together but that also means we don’t get to see each other as much outside of the business. 

For many, owning a bookstore is a dream job. Can you tell us what a typical day at work is like for you?

One day is never the same as another. It’s a lot of fun because we get to talk about the things we love, books, and we get to talk to and get to know our customers. Some days it can be fast-paced and other days it’s very chill. We are checking in inventory, helping customers find books, and running the bar. 

What are some of your favorite memories of books?

Meg: I remember when Tara was little, and she would bring me piles of books to read to her in the living room. She will say she never liked reading before Harry Potter but it is one of my fondest memories of books and being a big sister to Tara.

Tara: I actually don’t remember liking to read when I was younger. I used to hate going to the library in elementary school, but one summer my babysitter read the first Harry Potter book to us and I was hooked. I haven’t stopped reading since.

I see that you do a lot of events with North Carolina authors. How do you find and choose who to invite? Is there someone you haven’t had at the store that you would love to invite?

It is mostly just through building relationships. We get to know many local authors that come into the store, or through our customers. We would love to host Sarah McCoy. She has been a great supporter and friend! We would also like to host Adrienne Young and Hugh Howey. 

What makes your bookstore unique? Do you have any types of books that you specialize in?

What makes our store unique is that we are not only a bookstore. We offer local craft beers, wine, coffee teas, and grab-and-go snack items. We also have some locally sourced baked goods available. We are designed to be a gathering place for the community and often host live music and other events.

You’re not originally from Winston-Salem, so what brought you there and what led you to stay? How have you built your own community within it?

Meg: I moved here to be closer to family (although I did leave quite a bit of family in NY at the same time) but we also felt like there were better opportunities for my family here. We have established a love for the city and our community, my family is thriving here. Of course, The Bookhouse is just one of the anchors keeping us here.

Tara: I moved here about seven years ago to be closer to family as my parents relocated here for a job. I quickly fell in love with Winston-Salem. It is the perfect sized city. We have a lot of revitalization happening and there is a lot to do, but the community is small enough that you will run into people you know when you are out and about. We have a fun arts culture and so many great outdoor spaces, that it was easy to settle in and make this place home. I have built community through my church, the places I have worked, and of course The Bookhouse. We are so blessed to be able to meet many different kinds of people and get to know our community better!

The mission of the NC Literary Map is to share and promote the literary heritage of our state, which is not unlike what a bookstore aims to do. How do you think organizations like us can work together to both achieve our goals?

There are so many ways to do this, but I think it really boils down to education. One thing we try to do is to host local authors often, but we also love to feature other North Carolina authors in the store. I love Wiley Cash, and I recently learned that one of his inspirations was John Ehle. I had never heard of John before, but now I am hooked. I love to tell my customers about him and help them learn a little more about our North Carolina authors. By continuing to learn about our North Carolina authors, we can connect people with authors in their preferred genre.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our followers?

We are more than a bookstore. We are also a gathering place. We love to discuss with our customers what they are reading, make recommendations, get recommendations, and share a little life together. We are designed to create a space where people can come together, and the bar really facilitates that. We offer coffee, tea, beer, wine, and small baked goods/snacks that encourage people to linger and gather.

As the NC Literary Map, we love supporting and showcasing the authors and literary works of North Carolina. Can you tell us what North Carolina authors or books you would recommend?

·         The Unmaking of June Farrow by Adrienne Young

·         Wool by Hugh Howey

·         Sun Eater Series by Christopher Ruocchio

·         Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

A Land More Kind Than Home – Wiley Cash

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