Pilot to Buy The Country Bookshop
The Pilot and The Country Bookshop have shared strong ties over the 57-year history of the venerable downtown Southern Pines store. That bond is about to grow even stronger.
David Woronoff, publisher of The Pilot, announced Friday that he and the other owners of the newspaper are buying the bookshop. The sale is set to close Nov. 12.
“I’ve always said our job is to serve the community, and we do that by putting out great products,” Woronoff said in announcing the acquisition to the newspaper’s staff Friday morning. “I can’t imagine Southern Pines without The Country Bookshop.”
“I read a story a while back about how the bookshop was really struggling and that it might not make it, so we went out and bought it.”
Woronoff said the store “needs a little tender loving care” to help it remain vibrant.
“I feel like we can give it that,” said Woronoff, whose cousin, Frank Daniels III, now owns a book publishing company and is also one of the owners of The Pilot. “We very much want to shore up that institution. If we devote the resources of The Pilot, its website, the telephone directory and PineStraw magazine, we think the book store can be successful.”
Bobbie Bicket, who has owned the store since 2006, called the purchase “a perfect fit” for The Pilot.
“I am excited that The Country Bookshop will become part of The Pilot family,” she said. “It is certainly the heart of the downtown. It really has a life of its own.
“The people who work there — and I have always said the employees are its greatest asset — truly love it. They love to read. They love to help other people love to to learn to read.
“The Pilot and David Woronoff have the ability to help it grow and change.”
Woronoff said that one way the new owners want to honor the rich heritage of the shop is by returning to the former logo featuring a hound drawn by the late Glenn Rounds, legendary author and illustrator, whose first wife, former children’s librarian Margaret Olmstead Rounds, co-founded the shop. The sign, featuring “high-stepping Ol’ Boomer, the Book Hound,” now hangs inside the store’s current location at 140 NW Broad.
The business had its beginnings in the early 1950s, when the Roundses established an informal bookselling business out of their home in Pinebluff. Customers would often stay for a cup of tea after making their purchases.
In January 1953, Lockie Parker, the retired founder and editor of the children’s magazine “Story Parade,” became Margaret Rounds’ partner in a new venture. They set up shop at 210 W. Pennsylvania Ave., where El Vaquero now stands. Three years later, they moved their bookstore into the cottagelike building across the street at 190 W. Pennsylvania (the site of the now-closed All Things Sacred).
“People are already finding their way to The Country Book-shop before its official opening,” said an article in The Pilot, “enjoying the gracious, friendly reception they meet there, the good talk of books and other interesting things — the browsing, whether or not they buy.”
When Margaret Rounds retired in 1956, several other women joined Parker, including Katharine Boyd, owner of The Pilot and widow of author James Boyd, as a silent partner.
“People still talk about the shop’s ‘cottage days,’” Mrs. Boyd once wrote, “how books were piled from floor to ceiling and you had to wend your way around them, creating a charming maze of literature.”
In 1966, Mary Wilson “Peg” Benedict, a descendant of the New York Holt Publishing family, and her husband, Cadwallader “Cad” Benedict, an associate editor at The Pilot, bought the bookshop. It quickly outgrew the cottage, so the Benedicts moved their store to 124 NW Broad (where Monkees is now) in October 1982, doubling the size of the shop.
Two years later, the Benedicts retired and sold what had become a Southern Pines landmark to Joan and James Scott.
Scott had quit her job as a congressional aide in Washington, D.C, and started her apprenticeship as a bookseller and then manager of the historic Francis Scott Key Bookstore (now closed) in Georgetown. When she saw the ad for The Country Bookshop, Scott's long-held dream of owning a bookstore was realized.
By 1991, the bookstore had again outgrown its space, so Scott moved it into the renovated building next door (the former Pope’s Five and Dime), where it is still located today. The shop retained the high pressed-tin ceilings, ceiling fans and creaky maple hardwood floors of the original early 20th century building.
Despite the national economic downturn in 2002, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Scott expanded the shop into the space next door, again doubling its size to 2,700 square feet.
The Country Bookshop quickly became the commercial hub of the community and one of the most successful independent bookstores in the South, according to Bookselling This Week.
Scott died in September 2005 at the age of 78.
Bicket purchased The Country Bookshop the following March and brought it into the 21st century with new computer systems and equipment, a website featuring 24-hour online shopping, customer loyalty programs, and social media like e-mails and Facebook.
Steve Bouser, editor of The Pilot, said he and his wife, Brenda, were close friends with Scott and are among the legions of loyal customers of the shop.
“It’s good for The Pilot and wonderful for the community,” Bouser said. “My dear friend Joan would be thrilled.”
Woronoff said The Pilot looks forward to making The Country Bookshop even better in the years ahead.
“We have a great literary tradition here, and this will add to that,” he said. “This is a sign that we are truly committed to this community and that we will invest in it.”
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