By Amber Mabe
This is a place of mystery, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived it and dreamed it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. — “Shadows of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafron
Stepping into Paperback Exchange is like stepping into another world. A world of adventure, history, mystery and learning. One look at the towering walls of paperbacks, and you know you are in a serious bookstore. The sights, textures, and even smells create an atmosphere that any book-lover will be drawn in by. “Let’s face it…there is something to be said about the sweet aroma of a used book and an old novel,” says store owner KC Grieser.
Paperback Exchange is like a portal into shops from a time past. You will not ﬁnd a music or movie section, a barista serving gourmet coffee, or even a cash register. What you will ﬁnd is a store owner and staff who know and love books, and who will work one on one with you to ﬁnd what you are looking for. “We want you to leave with a good book in your hand and get a great feeling from visiting our store,” says KC, who modeled the store after the rustic book shops of the 50’s.
KC Grieser spent nearly 8 years working for her mentor, Betsy Vannoy, at the original Paperback Exchange in Roanoke, VA. When KC moved to the Triad area in 2000, Betsy helped her to ﬁnance the new store in Kernersville. KC says she tries to run her shop like her mentor did. “She ran a fair, honest business and believed in the ‘pay it forward’ theory. She helped me get my store off and running where I was able to pay her back within two years. Without her help and belief, I would never have been able to make it happen.” What started as a collection of 3,000 paperbacks has grown to nearly 70,000 volumes in every genre from children’s stories, romance, mystery, and science ﬁction to historic ﬁction, military non ﬁction and more. KC keeps all these titles in a traditional rolodex index. She says the methods she follows may be antiquated, but they are cost effective. “If it is not broken, don’t ﬁx it!”
Not only is the atmosphere from a long-ago time, but so are the prices. All books, including new releases, are sold at 50% of the publisher’s price. Books are stamped to identify it if a customer brings it back, since they are guaranteed return for 25% of the publisher’s price in store credit. Customers can also bring in their own paperbacks to see if the store needs them.
“Step back in time when customer service still exists,” says regular customer Pam Van Horn. “Proprietor, KC Grieser, shares her love of books and goes out of her way to ﬁnd just the right book for you. If you like to feel appreciated while you spend your hard-earned money, Paperback Exchange is the place to be.”
Customers love the store so much, they have even started to decorate. Literary gifts like a stained-glass depiction of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” wall hangings, pictures, and funny sayings are everywhere. “They like to leave something to add in with the menagerie of a well-loved place,” says KC. “Customers usually come to visit to browse, escape the rat race, and take a break…most of my friends were customers at one time.” Sometimes groups will come to crochet or knit among the books, and KC has been known to share lunch if you stay long enough.
KC says she is proud of the fact that she has been able to keep her business open in a fast-paced world. “Our store is very small and does little business due to the demand of internet sales. But we are still cheaper, and offer a personal touch when choosing books,” she commented, “Once a person swings by and says they have meant to stop by for years, they become a regular client.”
Bonnie Longhitano is one of those regulars. “KC has always been very personable whenever I come to her store and has a knack for remembering what types of books I love to read and makes great suggestions,” says Bonnie. “Prices are very reasonable, and she has a large inventory of books to choose from.” Next time you are looking for a good book, skip the chain stores and check out Paperback Exchange.
Paperback Exchange is located on S. Cherry Street on the corner of Cherry and Armﬁeld. Their business hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10-5. You can ﬁnd them on Facebook and reach them at 336-992-2665 (BOOK).