How a couple of outsiders captured the heart of a small Virginia community in the Appalachian Mountains and succeeded in the unlikely enterprise of opening an independent bookstore.
When her husband, Jack, retired from his position as head of a college department in Edinburgh, the couple decided to move to the United States. Welch, an American ethnographer, had been offered a seemingly attractive position directing an arts nonprofit in the United States, but it didn’t work out. Checking out new places, they settled on Big Stone Gap, the scene of Adriana Trigiani's popular novels as well as the 1908 classic, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, by John Fox Jr. On impulse, Welch and her husband purchased an old Edwardian mansion in poor repair and then decided to open a secondhand bookstore, which they gave the whimsical name Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books, Music and Internet Café. In Scotland, the couple had spent weekends performing at local fairs (she as a professional storyteller and he singing Scottish ballads), and Lonesome Pine soon doubled as a community center with a writing group, Celtic songs and dancing, mystery nights, gourmet treats and more. They worked to draw people in from surrounding communities, and initially, their unlikely gamble proved to be a big success as the store thrived. However, to supplement their income, the author took a job at a local nonprofit and ran into a conflict on policy. Gossip spread that they were “uppity incomers,” her husband was refused membership in the Kiwanis club and customers fell away. This time, they determined to stay and in time were accepted as “Jack and Wendy, who run our town's bookstore.” Welch discusses the financial practicalities and the ephemeral aspects involved in creating a peaceful space where people can hang out.
An entertaining book with a full cast of eccentric characters.