It just may be Southport’s best kept secret.
At the end of the long hallway through Southport Realty’s main entrance at 727 North Howe Street is a collection of donated used books, CDs, DVDs, puzzles and vinyl’s that are for sale. Most items cost one dollar or less with monies used to support Margaret & James Harper, Jr. Library in Southport and G.V. Barbee, Sr. Library in Oak Island. The bookstore, managed by Friends of the Library Southport & Oak Island (FOLSOI), has never had a real name.
Kathy Fleming, member of FOLSOI board of directors, has been the book sale chairperson for over ten years.
“Several of the bookstore volunteers and I were working in the bookstore one day and we decided to have a naming contest. I thought it would be useful for the bookstore to have a name because we have frequent first time local customers who are not aware of the bookstore. I thought it was important for the community to be involved. I also wanted the bookstore volunteers to understand how the public views the bookstore. And I knew a naming contest would be fun,” said Kathy.
Notification of the contest was posted on the FOLSOI website (FOLSOI.org) which quickly garnered nearly 30 suggestions. Eight book store volunteers reviewed the list and narrowed it to 13 names which were presented to the FOLSOI board of directors.
The winning name, Once More Bookstore, was suggested by Patty Langer of Oak Island. In addition to perpetual bragging rights, Patty received a $25 gift certificate to the bookstore (Picture above, Patty, left and Kathy).
“I think the words ‘once more’ call to mind a book that deserves to be read over and over again. And I really like things that rhyme!” Patty said.
Selling used books to support the local libraries had humble beginnings. Exact details of the bookstore origin are difficult to corroborate. The 30-year history of FOLSOI is documented in stacks of handwritten meeting minutes and one-page newsletters. One of the early FOLSOI board members recalls that Southport Baptist Church offered a building where used books were stored. On sale days volunteers had to move all the books to the sale site. One volunteer recalls selling books at Brunswick Community College. And another recalls hearing that books were sold from trunks of cars. Folklore? Maybe. While some may be rumor, it’s fact that thebookstore would not exist today without the ingenuity of its founding members.
In March 2000, the town of Southport offered the Old Jail Annex on Rhett Street to store and sell books. Books were sold outside the building. Volunteers cleaned the space, put up shelves and added lighting, replaced the roof and added a window air conditioner. By 2005 all the books were housed in the Old Jail Annex. In 2006 Nancy Watson became the ways and means chairperson on the FOLSOI board.
“I was responsible for the complete management of the bookstore from donation to doorway. During my tenure, I initiated once-a-month book sales. My team of four got the job done and we provided FOLSOI with a steady stream of revenue,” Nancy recalled.
The city of Southport eventually requested the jail space back for their own needs. In May of 2011, the first book sale was held in Southport Realty who has generously provided the space for the book store ever since.
“I cannot express enough appreciation for the support that Southport Realty has given to Friends of the Library and our bookstore,” said Kathy. In addition to the space, Southport Realty provides a work area for volunteers to process donations, and welcomes shoppers, donors and volunteers.
“Our working relationship is open and supportive which was especially important during the pandemic. Most other Friends of the Library groups host book sales one or two times per year because they do not have a permanent location. Our space at Southport Realty enables FOLSOI to display our collection continuously. We are fortunate and unique,” Kathy added.
Once More Bookstore boasts a collection of approximately 10,000 volumes. Fiction is the largest genre, but the store also has vintage books and classics, and a children’s collection. The nonfiction collection includes war, presidential and general history, nautical, gardening, travel, hobbies, biographies and memoirs, and cookbooks. Organized much like a library, the book displays change based on donations and volunteers who brainstorm as the inventory comes and goes.
It’s these volunteers who keep the pages turning in the bookstore. “Our volunteers make the store the success that it is,” Kathy proudly noted.
Yvonne Moody has been a volunteer for over 15 years, going back to when the store was in the jail annex with minimal heating and air conditioning. Her role is shelver, responsible for placing fiction donations on the proper shelves, keeping shelves tidy and watching for misplaced books.
“Reading has always been my favorite occupation. When my husband and I were looking for a retirement home, a library was in the top three requirements for a community. The variety of donations we receive makes me realize what a fascinating group of people live in our area,” Yvonne said.
Nancy Watson has continued to be involved with the bookstore for the past 17 years.
“The joy of reading and sharing good books is still my passion. Our team has expanded as have our revenues. The community support and commitment of our volunteers makes our treasure trove unique,” she said.
Once More Bookstore sells an astonishing 17,000 to 20,000 books every year. Funds support youth programs, educational programs for adults, facilities improvements, and community outreach, as well as supplement the operational budgets at both libraries.
“The most fun working a book sale is watching a first-time customer’s jaw drop when he or she walks in. Our shoppers become our friends. We catch up with them and talk about books and more when they visit the store,” said Kathy.
Soon, a sign with the new name will hang proudly out front of Southport Realty. Kathy hints about more changes to the bookstore. “Once More Bookstore is inviting, impressive and eclectic, just like Southport! It’s important to keep the Southport flavor while we give the store a little polish. It’s such a gem! So, stay tuned!” she excitedly concluded.
About the Once More Bookstore: Once More Bookstore is open Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. except holidays. Book donations are accepted on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Used books are accepted at the double doors on the 8th Street side of Southport Realty. FOLSOI is unable to accept encyclopedias, textbooks, out-of-date technical books, magazines, cassette tapes, VHS tapes and damaged books.
About FOLSOI: Friends of the Library Southport & Oak Island (FOLSOI) is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to supporting the Margaret & James Harper, Jr. Library in Southport, NC and the G.V. Barbee, Sr. Library in Oak Island, NC and their missions and programs. The organization, run strictly by volunteers, offers financial and operational support for library programs, community outreach, and facilities improvements, through activities such as book sales, fundraisers, and dues collection, ensuring that extra funding beyond the libraries’ regular budgets are protected and earmarked to enhance these two libraries’ services. For more information, visit www.folsoi.org.