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Historical nonfiction author Erik Larson met with fans like Gordon Talk, 11, pictured with his mother Shelly, during a signing event at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines. Photos by Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

Only a handful of tickets remain for the upcoming book signing featuring Jenna Bush Hager at The County Bookshop in downtown Southern Pines. Events like this are part of what set independent bookstores apart from chains and online retailers.

Ryan Tuck of NC Local, a weekly email newsletter produced for the NC Local News Lab Fund, singled out The Country Bookshop as a “shining example” of a business pursuing new revenue opportunities experimentally and diligently.

The goal of the NC Local News Lab Fund is to connect the news and information community. It was established at the North Carolina Community Foundation in 2017 by Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation that works to ensure that the American people come first in our democracy.

Tuck, a former online editor of The Pilot, was familiar with The Country Bookshop. The small retail store on Broad Street had fallen on hard times by 2010, when it was purchased by The Pilot.

“The Pilot’s core purpose is to serve our community,” publisher David Woronoff told Tuck. “So our purchase and restoration of The Country Bookstore, which is almost 67 years old, proves our commitment to that belief.”

Woronoff explained that most big cities had lost their independent bookstores, “so our acquisition was quite a leap,” but that he could not imagine downtown Southern Pines without it.

He recruited Kimberly Daniels Taws to run the bookstore. Under her leadership, the Bookshop has retained its small-town atmosphere with a friendly, knowledgeable staff. The store carries a large selection of classics, bestsellers, and every genre, in addition to toys, gifts, cards and knick-knacks.

In particular, the Bookshop has been successful with hosting author events and book signings. Big name draws include upcoming events with Jenna Hager Bush and also James Patterson later this spring, in addition to previous sell-out offerings that featured Nicholas Sparks, Scott Pelley, and World War II local war hero Ray Lambert and author Jim DeFelice in 2019.

“We’re bringing a best-selling author to our small town at least once a month. That creates a solid sales for the bookstore and defines the newspaper as devoted to the cultural betterment of the community,” Woronoff said.

“To be successful, we have investing in cultivating relationships with the authors, their agents and publishers,” Wornoff told Tuck, noting that like classified advertising, “the more you have, the more you get… and gives us better insight into the needs of small retailers, who are the bedrock of our local advertising sales effort.”

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