Irv Coats, owner of Reader’s Corner, sat down with The Herald this week to talk about all things books and how he came to open his used bookstore. Reader’s Corner is located at 3201 Hillsborough Street — a short walk or drive from campus. Who would have thought that a man who originally came to North Carolina to study physics at North Carolina State University would have had an interest in owning his own bookstore?
When did you open Reader’s Corner, and what inspired you to open it?
“I love to read and have always wanted to have a bookstore — maybe because I learned to read at a young age. I did a lot of other things, but when I finally opened up my bookstore, my mother said, “Finally, you’re doing something that suits you!” For twenty years, I worked in the public health field and collected books for my store, so when I retired, I was ready to open. The original owner sold her store to me in about 1980, and I began to move my books down from D.C. for the next two years. I always tell people it’s not a business, it’s a hobby.”
Where do you get the majority of books for your store?
“Oh, we get them everywhere. When people die, they often leave me their life libraries—which has been happening more often recently. But we buy books, too. We buy 1,000 books a day through the door. We’re very particular about what we buy, but you can donate any book you like to the store — all the books seen on the outside of the store are donated books that people have left behind.”
How has COVID-19 impacted your store?
“We were shut down for a couple of months, so it impacted us terribly. But what happened was that internet sales picked up, and we had enough income that I was able to continue paying everyone, and we made it through. Even though we didn’t make a lot of money last year, we’re still here, and we’re still going.”
What’s your favorite genre, and what’s the most popular genre sold here?
“My favorite is nonfiction — I’m a physicist by trade, so I like math and engineering, and things like that. There’s always a hot seller that everyone wants, and what that is changes pretty regularly. So, whatever’s hot sells pretty quickly. I would say that we sell out of every category about equally well.”
Breaking away from formal questions, Irv explained that “the nice thing about this kind of business is that you meet the nicest people,” and even though he may not be out front with customers, he still knows the warmth that walks through his front door every day.
After speaking with Irv, it became clear that this is a man who is doing what he loves. His love for his books and his customers is evident in the way that he speaks about the pair. As a writer for The Herald who has bought countless books from Reader’s Corner for book reviews, I cannot recommend checking out this local gem enough. As Irv said with a laugh, “I put better books out front than my competitor has inside.”
By Rylee Petty, Staff Writer