When I first announced a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, and put out feelers for indie bookstores, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café topped everyone’s list of must-sees. The popular shop has been serving the city’s readers since 1982, offering a carefully curated selection of new books for all ages, a variety of author events and readings, a large array of gift items, and a café that serves up locally roasted coffee and fresh baked goods.
Founded by Emoke B’Racz, the shop was established during a time when downtown Asheville was far from the bustling tourist destination it is today. In fact, it was apparently all but abandoned when B’Racz realized her dream of opening her own shop.
“I wanted Malaprop’s to be a place where poetry mattered, where a woman’s words were as important as a man’s, where excellence was customary, where good writing had a home, where I could nurture my addiction to literature, and play, enjoy, and entertain people drawn to quality books,” she says on the shop’s website.
Malaprop’s – whose name is derived from a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play “The Rivals” – moved to its current location in the late 1990s and has become a central draw to the revived and exciting downtown retail district. Asheville has seen a resurgence in recent years, with an abundance of excellent restaurants, cafes, boutique shops, and hotels dotting the city’s streets. The nearby Biltmore mansion brings a steady stream of tourists to Asheville year-round, many of which make their way into Malaprop’s.
In addition to its impressive inventory of books and gifts, the shop maintains an active events calendar, book club meetings, children’s story hours, and even pop-up weddings.
Veteran staff member Gretchen Horn became the shop’s majority owner in early 2019 after starting in the café as a barista in 2001. Horn’s love of the shop – and of Asheville – guarantees that Malaprop’s will hold true to its roots well into the future.
“Asheville is a special place that calls out to artists, writers, and creative people,” she says on the website. “I know Malaprop’s can be part of revitalizing that creativity, just as it helped downtown Asheville get off its feet 37 years ago.”
Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café is located at 55 Haywood Street, Asheville, North Carolina. The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.