Pittsboro, NC

The great state of North Carolina has much to boast of, including native son James Taylor. "Carolina In My Mind" is one of his truly great songs, adopted as the unofficial song of both the state and UNC Chapel Hill. For that and the glory that his musical career have reflected on the Tar Heel state, you might expect a more impressive tribute than this very ordinary bridge, just south of  Chapel Hill.

But it is a happy landmark for me, for if you keep going on Highway 15-501 for about a half an hour, you'll come to McIntyre's Books, located just north of the classic Southern town of Pittsboro (below).

R.B. and Jenny Fitch opened McIntyre’s in 1989 as a college graduation gift for Keebe, their book-loving daughter. The Fitches were developing Fearrington Village - a huge, planned community near the beautiful Haw River - and wanted to include a bookstore in the small shopping area at the entrance to the property. 

The bookstore they built was designed with old English bookshops in mind, incorporating cozy rooms and comfortable chairs. McIntyre's even includes a room with a fireplace, where customers can lose themselves in wonderful books, and while away the cold winter days. 

The very successful store now hosts multiple book clubs as well as many writer events. Recent author visits include Craig Johnson, Tayari Jones, and our own Leonard Pitts. Keebe Fitch and Pete Mock, the book buyer, have put together a marvelous staff, each one an avid reader with a loyal following of customer fans who seek out the hand-written recommendations posted throughout the store.

Pete has been selling books since 1985. Starting off at The Intimate Bookshop in Chapel Hill, he then spent a year in California at the legendary Upstart Crow bookstore, where his earnings supported his beach bum lifestyle. Finally, he found his way to McIntyre’s, where he has stayed for the past 16 years. Pete was quick to explain why, saying "I love my job. I love the nice soft carpet that doesn't hurt my joints. I love our interesting customers. But most of all I love all the books our reps send me so I can read late into the night every night."

Pete and I get down to serious business in the room with the fireplace. 

Here are two interior shots of the store's main room,

and a visiting hummingbird that flew around the store while I was there.

Below, the wonderfully decorated Mysteries Room really sets the mood.

Here's Pete with co-worker (and newlywed) Hannah Stusak, who spent time as a carpenter, waitress, and Piggly Wiggly employee before finding her way to McIntyre's.

Pete recounts a funny story from a few years ago:
"We had Louis Rubin here for his book Uptown/Downtown in Old Charleston. Because Dr. Rubin (mentor to Lee Smith, Anne Tyler and others, and founder of Algonquin Books) was getting a bit hard of hearing, he asked the incomparable Jill McCorkle to come along and be his ear trumpet when it came time for questions. Dr. Rubin finished his reading, sat down in this nice leather chair I call ‘the throne’, and looked at Jill. The first question was asked and Jill, this typically soft-spoken woman with the most mellifluous southern voice, bends down, cups her hand around his ear, and yells “LOUIS, THE QUESTION IS…” I started laughing so hard I had to leave the room."

Finally, Pete's answer to my featured time travel question:

If you could go back in time, from before recorded history to as recently as last week, for one month, be completely safe (if you wanted to be) live comfortably (also if you wanted to), meet anyone, whether famous or not, and really get to understand that time and those people, where would you go:
If I could go back in time I would like to go back to the 1830’s-40’s 
When would you go:

I would head out west exploring the country 
Who would you want to meet:
I would want to meet Jim Bridger. 
AND most importantly, why do you think you chose your answer:

When I was young, growing up in New Hampshire, I spent hours exploring what seemed to be a vast forest behind our house, it’s all gone now, so I’ve always been fascinated by those who were willing to explore the unknown, learning from the Indians as they went, and discovering the pristine beauty of an incredible country. Now all we have are the diaries of these men and women and our imaginations.
You and I have a lot in common, Pete!

Just a mile or so south of McIntyre's is the tiny village of Bynum, right on the Haw River. Bynum is a favorite stop of mine if I have time before or after my McIntyre's appointment. 

Here are a couple of videos I took from, and next to, what was once the main bridge crossing the river.

Don't worry - I made it to the store before the storm hit.

Comments, requests and suggestions on my blog are always welcome.


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