Friday, May 8, 2015

City Lights Books - Sylva, NC

City Lights Bookstore - Sylva, NC
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I think I experienced the ultimate in customer service here at City Lights in Sylva, NC.  Chris W., the fine owner of City Lights, must have excelled in his bookstore owner classes.  He has the uncanny ability to recognize a bookstore customer in his store who has travelled great distances to buy a book.  He recognizes that this traveller has been to several bookstores, probably accumulating a few books along the way.  His inner voice then speaks to him, "This goof has been to a lot of bookstores.  How will he get these back in his suitcase without incurring additional charges and fees or pulling a muscle?"  Then he speaks to me, "Do you want me to mail all your books back so you don't have to pack them?"  This is one savvy, perceptive bookstore owner.  This talent is what makes Chris and City Lights, such a great place to visit.

It is maddening to me yet again, that I can visit a town of approximately 2500 that has an incredible bookstore (one of four in this town, for crying out loud!) that is charming, reasonably sized, and successful, while towns that are MUCH larger may have nothing.  I've seen this before in other sparsely populated areas and marvel at the wonderful booksellers, owners, and their stores.  And City Lights has everything you would want from a successful indie.  Great selection of new and used books, several regional selections (which I've learned in this part of the country is called "grit lit"), frequent author events, a great café for coffee, booze, and live music, and a friendly owner and booksellers who are knowledgeable and conversant about books and authors.  If a customer has a bad experience here it's no fault of the staff or store.

Chris is as genuine and down to earth as they come and he along with booksellers Emily and Robin were all the absolute best to talk with.  City Lights has some great local support and also gets some traffic from nearby Western Carolina University.  He describes their location in the region as being in a "sweet spot" to attract customers from different communities.  Sidelines and especially used books are a very important part of the business and they are open to expanding the sidelines.  Luckily, their landlord is the former owner so she is very reasonable with the rent.  Since City Lights has been around for about 30 years, it's established and local customers know about it.  It was interesting to hear Chris talk about the business and the lack of competition in the area from large chains like Barnes & Noble.  He quickly added though that the indies need Barnes & Noble.  If that chain were to go under, it would throw publishing into substantial disorganization and would tilt the scales heavily toward Amazon.

This bookstore is located in a very picturesque North Carolina town, in the Smoky Mountains.  Even if you're not a reader, you would thoroughly enjoy visiting this wonderful area.  But if you come here and DON'T visit City Lights, you're making a big mistake.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Cartwheel, Jennifer DuBois.  The premise is a good one.  Story loosely based on the Amanda Knox story.  I liked this but thought the book could've been more concise.  God Got A Dog, Cynthia Rylant & Marla Fraze.  Absolutely loved this short collection of poems with illustrations. Even if you don't like poetry, this book might change your mind.  Includes titles like, "God Went To The Doctor," "God Got Arrested, and "God Caught A Cold."  In "God Went To Beauty School," he went there to learn how to give a good perm and ended up just crazy about nails.  This book won't take you more than 30 minutes and I highly recommend it.

CURRENTLY READING:  Mattie C's Boy: The Shelley Stewart Story, Don Keith.  Non-fiction.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Where All Light Tends To Go, David Joy.  Moo, Jane Smiley.

You can enter the café here or enter it through the bookstore.  

A nice patio attached to the café.

Main entrance.  

Looking to the left as you enter the store.  

Looking to the right as you enter the store.  Notice the cat in the lower right.  Cat lovers will enjoy knowing that they have two cats at this indie.  

A great place to sit and test drive a book.  

This fireplace is for more than just looks.  They can use this on those cold winter days.  

Some artwork displayed by local grade schoolers.  A great idea.  

Unique North Carolina hats can be found here.  

Go into this room to see some of the sidelines.  

A great staff picks display.  

A great space for store events.  

There is an entire room devoted to used books.  This is one of the book aisles.  

Bring your used books here.  And then get more books!

More great seats to do some book talk.  

Magazines available here.  

A portion of the children's section.  

A portion of the spacious café area, located below the bookstore.  

If coffee isn't your thing maybe you can find something in this cabinet.  

Chris on the left and Emily on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.  


  1. City Lights is an enchanting bookstore!

    1. I couldn't agree more, Jennifer. And the people there were the best. Thanks for the comment!