The Regulator Bookshop on Durham's famous Ninth Street, was opened in 1976 by Tom Campbell and Aden Field. It has since become, with the help of John Valentine, a local and indeed, a national, institution. Their awards include Winner of the Haslam Award for Bookselling Excellence, Finalist for Publisher's Weekly Award for Bookseller of the Year, Winner of the Durham Chamber of Commerce Customer Service Award and one of my favorites, One of the 29 Members of the McSweeney's 100!
Here's the store just a few years after they opened.
Located a few blocks from Duke University, the building was originally owned by the Regulator Press. The press was named after the Regulators, a group of anti-tax, anti-ruling class citizens in North Carolina that came together in the mid-1700's to protest the corrupt local government. Although the "War of the Regulators" is considered by some to be one of the first acts of the American Revolutionary War, it was waged against corrupt local officials and not against the King. In reality, many anti-Regulators went on to become patriots during the American Revolution, while many Regulators remained Loyalists.
The store continues to uphold the liberal and somewhat rebellious image started first by the Regulator movement and then by the Regulator Press. In fact, much of the Durham area has often been compared to Berkeley, CA, also known for being a bastion of free-thinking causes--and home to the world famous Publishers Group West, by the way.
Tom describes their opening day like this:
"We set things up so that our first customer that morning was Agnes Birkhead, the grandmother of one of the store's founding lights. Agnes had been the court stenographer at the Scopes Monkey Trial and had gone on to be Sinclair Lewis's personal assistant. Agnes Birkhead was a touchstone for us, a connection to a strong American tradition of truth-seeking and independent thinking."
The Regulator Bookshop today.
Here are two views of Ninth Street.
The children's room, scene of many happy book club meetings, author readings and budding book lovers.
Here's a signed Dave Eggers print, a gift for the store's support of all things McSweeney's.
Looking back, and
They are also fierce supporters of shopping locally, go Bulls!
And finally, here, l-to-r, are store owners Tom Campbell and John Valentine, with Wander Lorentz de Haas, the weekend manager and winner of the Guy-With-The-Coolest-Name Competition.
Do you have any fond memories of Durham or the Regulator? Press that ole' comment button and let me know!