For more than 15 years, local book and music lovers scouting out a bargain – or just a cozy place to escape for a time – have sought refuge at Mrs. B’s Used Books & CD’s.
Located in a 1930’s-era bungalow amid a mish-mash of strip malls and fast food restaurants, the Main Street building has been an oasis of sorts for many of its customers over the years.
Which is why the announcement in late January of the store’s closing came so hard to so many.
“People come in sometimes two and three times a week and often tell me that this is their happy place,” said owner Belinda Bledsoe who opened the store in October of 2002. “I knew it would be sad for them, and it’s sad for me to say goodbye.”
Bledsoe says that since she made the announcement that the store will be closing on Feb. 24, customers have poured in sharing personal stories and memories, and snapping photos.
“I hear stories like, ‘I remember reading in the children’s area when I was young,’” she said. “I’ve seen a generation pass through here. It’s kind of emotional for everybody. We’ve had a lot of love the last few days.”
‘A small intellectual center’
Twenty-four-year-old Jennifer Toppins has been coming to Mrs. B.’s ever since her literature teacher at Beech High School referred her there for a book the class was studying.
“I’ve been coming here a long time,” said Toppins, who was home on a break from China where she is a graduate student.
Toppins was glad she stopped by while she was home for winter break.
“I’m glad I came before it closed,” she said. “I’ve probably combed every shelf in here once or twice over the years.”
She recalls buying Homer’s poems The Iliad and The Odyssey here, as well as one of her favorite classics, Catch-22.
“I always gravitate to the used classics,” Toppins added. “And I always wanted to support a local business.
“It’s sad. This is like a small intellectual center so to speak, and I feel like we’re losing that.”
Hendersonville resident Lee Noe had heard of the closing as well and stopped by to see what gems he could find.
Noe said the cozy store quickly became a favorite stop in the two years he’s lived in Hendersonville.
He’d stop in once every month or so mostly to peruse the vinyl records.
“I miss the old record stores. They’re kind of scarce these days,” said Noe.
“I don’t think there’s anything like this in Hendersonville.”
‘A joyful journey’
Bledsoe admits she’s been mentally preparing for the closing for months – knowing it would be an emotional time for both her and the many customers who have felt like family.
An entrepreneur who weathered the storm when giant bookseller Barnes & Noble came to town, Bledsoe acknowledges online booksellers like Amazon have made it harder for her to make a profit.
“If I wanted to I could hang in there,” she said. “I’m walking away because it’s time. It’s been a joyful journey, but it’s also been a heck of a lot of work.”
Bledsoe said she plans to move closer to her aging parents who live in the mountains of North Georgia.
It’s time to work less and live more, she muses.
But for now, as she winds down the business, she’ll continue to listen to the stories of how her small store has impacted others.
“I want people to know how much love and appreciation I feel,” she said. “I’m humbly grateful for them sharing this journey with me. It makes me feel like my 15-and-a-half years of work paid off.”