Two popular booksellers planning new stores

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 24, 2001

They are friends and now will be rivals. In a Natchez bookstore shuffle with an ironic twist, Charles Hall is moving his store, Cover to Cover Books and More, to 401 Main St., a move he has considered carefully and thinks is a good business decision.

Meantime, however, as word spread of Hall’s decision to leave the turn-of-the-century house at 208 Washington St., where Cover to Cover opened in 1991, Mary Emrick, a former owner of Cover to Cover, jumped at the chance to get back in the bookselling business at the old location.

&uot;There can’t be too many bookstores,&uot; Hall said, good-naturedly acknowledging the forthcoming competition.

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&uot;They are friends and sweet people,&uot; Emrick said of Hall and his wife, Rosemary Hall. &uot;I’m sorry I’ll be in competition with them.&uot;

Still, both are excited about their ventures, and Emrick will open her store within about a month of the relocation of Cover to Cover.

Hall will move inventory and furnishings to the new Main Street location the weekend of July 14-15, reopening Cover to Cover on Monday, July 16, at 10 a.m., he said, keeping the closure to a minimum.

Emrick hopes to open Turning Pages Books and More by mid to late August, she said.

Cover to Cover opened in 1991 under the ownership of Emrick and Mary Lou England. Emrick dropped out of the partnership to spend more time with her active children, who were involved in school and other functions, she said.

In June 1999, the Halls purchased Cover to Cover from England. From the onset of his venture into bookselling, Charles Hall said, he began to study the pros and cons of moving to a different location.

&uot;We talked about it at the time two years ago,&uot; Charles Hall said. &uot;It was obvious that the vibrant part of Natchez is downtown. And now with the convention center under construction, the federal courthouse, new offices opening, we wanted to be a part of the geographic area where there is the most activity.&uot;

The convention center is scheduled to open in the spring of 2002 a block away from the new location of Cover to Cover. The federal courthouse, if plans go as now under way, will occupy Memorial Hall, half a block from the bookstore’s new site.

&uot;We felt we were on the fringe of the shopping area,&uot; Hall said. &uot;We want to reach tourists as well as our local loyal customers. And we’ve had so many people who work downtown tell us how glad they are they’ll be in easy walking distance of Cover to Cover.&uot;

All reaction to the decision to move has been positive, Hall said, as he walked through the new location pointing out where different sections of books will be placed.

A separate room to the rear of the space will hold the out-of-print and first-edition books he has begun collecting, he said. &uot;I have an inventory of 7,000 of these books, and I haven’t had a good place to display them. Where we are now, we have the upstairs, but that’s not a user friendly space because of the stairs that you have to climb.&uot;

Tourists and local customers – as well as people from faraway places who find his inventory on various Web links – like the used books, Hall said. &uot;This has been very good for us.&uot;

In the used book room, there will be tables and chairs, a comfortable place for meetings of book clubs and other literary groups, Hall said.

&uot;Our idea is to be a full-service book store – new, used and out-of-print books. We’ll have a large, well-stocked children’s section. And we’ll have our main computer placed so that customers can participate with us when we search for books for them on the Internet.&uot;

&uot;We’re really excited about being in the 400 block of Main Street, and I can’t wait to go up and down the street and meet all the neighbors.&uot;

At the new Turning Pages Books and More, Emrick hopes to have a bookstore similar to the one she opened there in 1991.

Her children are grown now, she said, and the timing is perfect for her to get back into the business.

&uot;I’ve missed being in the book business,&uot; she said. &uot;I love the people who read books.&uot;

Her new store at the familiar Washington Street location will be a general purpose book store, she said.

&uot;And I hope to have lots of events, including things for children. I hope to have the book clubs and poetry society meetings there,&uot; Emrick said. &uot;Lots of the things we did in the past we’d like to do again.&uot;