Independent bookstore joins brewpub in revitalizing Uptowne


by Jordan Green

A new, independent bookstore opens in High Point’s Uptowne district on April 30, joining a recently launched brewpub in a bid to transform the auto-dominated commercial district into a walkable urban center.

Angel Schroeder decided about 18 months ago that a city of High Point’s size, with about 100,000 people, needed an independent bookstore.

She attended a booksellers conference in Asheville, where she networked with people like Brian Lampkin of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, and signed up for a training in Florida through the American Booksellers Association. She’s run the numbers and concluded that it’s a viable business proposition, but she’ll find out for sure when she opens Sunrise Books on April 30, which is Independent Bookstore Day.

It was natural that Schroeder would locate the store in Uptowne, the commercial district that hugs North Main Street from the library north to Lexington Avenue. She lives in Emerywood, an affluent, urban neighborhood from which she expects the store to draw a significant portion of its clientele.

Oak Hollow Mall served as a town center before it closed, Schroeder said, and considering the central business district is monopolized by furniture showrooms, Uptowne appears to have the most potential as a walkable commercial district. She dismissed the Palladium area as an option, saying, “Going out to the ’burbs, to me it’s like Greensboro.” But she admitted, “The only other place I did look for a day is Jamestown. It’s walkable; it has pride of place.”

And while she probably would have located her store in Uptowne regardless, the recent opening of Brown Truck Brewery definitely validated her decision.

“I am really encouraged by seeing people walking by,” said Schroeder, whose husband is an urban planner with the city of High Point. “I run into people I know, and they say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to Brown Truck.’ This is how neighborhoods are supposed to work, and I want to be part of it.”

The bookstore shares a building with a barber on Hillcrest Place near the intersection with North Main Street and is just across the street from the new brewpub.

Schroeder said she tends to get two distinct reactions from people when she tells them she’s opening a bookstore. It’s either “I can’t wait!” or, “A bookstore?”

“It’s like blacksmithing; it seems like something from another era,” she said. “The thing about a bookstore is it’s not entirely about books; it’s about community.”

The space is limited in the 600-square-foot storefront, so Schroeder plans to start small by hosting regular children’s reading hours, book-club meetings and possibly book signings by local authors. The store’s beverage offerings will be simple and straightforward: Sunrise Books will keep a pot of coffee on, with beans sourced from FosterHobbs Coffee Roasters in High Point.

The store is slowly but surely coming together. A set of green shelves came from Posh Pineapple, and Schroeder’s father built the cashier stand. For the time being, four plastic chairs form a focal point in the center of the space, but Schroeder said she’ll replace them with locally-made upholstered chairs before the store opens. On Monday afternoon, she was on the phone with a credit-card company to set up a point-of-sale system.

Most of the books have yet to be ordered. What’s on the shelves so far are some bargain books that Schroeder picked up at a sale in Atlanta. Living with a Wild God by Barbara Ehrenreich shares shelf space with The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie and an illustrated history of graffiti, while four copies of the Minecraft Essential Handbook and selections from Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series occupies a nearby shelf.

“Ordering 1,500 books is hard,” Schroeder said. “I’m still working on it.”

She said she plans to focus on bestsellers and children’s books with a healthy smattering of art and furniture-design books.

Schroeder knows and likes the owners of Brown Truck Brewery; their kids went to school together. The two businesses are linked by a non-functioning crosswalk across North Main Street that Schroeder describes as “deadly,” while noting that it runs into a storm drain. The two businesses are working together to convince the city to add a traffic signal, more clearly demarcate it and create a median “refuge” similar to the crosswalk in front of the High Point GTCC campus on South Main Street so pedestrians can get across safely.

“Everyone drives,” she said. “It’s the South, honey: You deserve what you get — that’s the attitude.”

While she sees plenty of room for improvement in the design of the street, Schroeder sang the praises of Brown Truck.

“The brewery is phenomenal,” she said. “It’s packed every evening. I hear live music coming across the street while I’m in here working in the evening. I’m really trying to get some of their foot traffic.”

For a former English major with experience writing for furniture trade publications, the retail aspect of operating a bookstore is a departure.

“I get all these review copies free — as many as I can handle,” Schroeder said. “I’m downloading them on my Nook. I’m reading new books every day, and I’m really into it. This is my job! I’m looking at how many copies are in the first print run, and deciding how many I need for the store. Is it any good? Sweet.”