The front of All Good Books storefront. Clint Wallace, right, is hard at work getting ready for the store’s grand opening. (Photos by Noah Hale)
A building in Five Points is making the transition from bustling bar to independent bookstore.
The renovation could be part of a trend toward bringing Five Points’ charm back into the sunlight.
All Good Books is a locally owned, general-interest bookstore, meaning it has titles ranging from nonfiction to science-fiction and fantasy and most genres in between. The store also features a small cafe that will sell coffee, beer, wine and prepackaged foods.
“Columbia is very ripe for the version of a bookstore that we’ve imagined here,” said Clint Wallace, co-owner of All Good Books.
Many locals think so, too.
“I think it’s great,” said Patricia Junqueira, a Kickstarter backer for the store. “I feel like Columbia, with a university and all, deserves to have some (independent) bookstores.”
The store’s grand opening is Thursday, March 2. It will be the first bookstore to open in Five Points since 2009, according to Wallace.
“It’s meant to be a gathering place for the community,” he said. “Columbia has the community and the appetite for that, but there hasn’t been exactly the right spot to do that in a literary-oriented way.”
There are plenty of places for people to gather near All Good Books. But many Five Points visitors are more likely to be drinking rye than discussing Catcher in the Rye.
It’s only a recent change for the nightlife to overshadow the daylife.
All Good Books co-owner Ben Adams, who previously owned Odd Bird Books on Main Street, grew up in the 1990s when Five Points had multiple bookstores and other now-closed retail.
“It (was) kind of like a really vibrant time for Five Points,” Adams said. “The college crowd and families and neighborhoods and people that lived in the neighborhoods, like, coexisted.”
Nowadays, when many people think about Five Points, they picture the version of the village that exists under moonlight.
All Good Books Manager Ruth Smyrl recalled a time she had to go through the village late one night.
“I couldn’t get over the amount of people in the streets at 1 in the morning,” Smyrl said. “It was just phenomenal. It was nothing like this when I was younger.”
Smyrl, a Columbia native, has 40 years of bookselling experience. She has run several bookstores in the Columbia area, including Five Points’ Intermezzo, a former newsstand/bookstore/cigar shop.
Five Points has gone through changes, she said. The area has always had bars, but as retail shops closed, Five Points became increasingly known for its nightlife.
What retail the district did have was largely contained to Saluda Avenue or the 600 block of Harden Street.
Retail recently has started spreading back into other parts.
A new second-hand clothing shop, Pannerpete Vintage, will be opening on the same block as All Good Books, according to owner Katie Roberts.
Wallace’s cousin is also involved with the shop.
Pannerpete Vintage plans a grand opening from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 12.
And Swiff, a luxury streetwear store, moved next door to All Good Books’ space last year.
But there’s still room for more retail to call the village home.
“I think that Harden Street is a prime example of (what) I would love to see more daytime businesses open on,” said Richard Burts, co-treasurer of the Five Points Association. “We need patches of retail to be able to encourage more retail to come, you know? You need that foot traffic that’s on the 600 block of Harden and, of course, Saluda Avenue.”
The All Good Books site is a prime spot, many have said. But 734 Harden St. is also among the oldest buildings in the area. It’s seen businesses of every type move in – and out.
“It’s now 101 years old,” Wallace said. “It’s been a law office and insurance office, battery store, Italian restaurant, Greek restaurant and then a bar.”
All Good Books was able to preserve the history of the Hair Building, built in 1921 by Thomas Hair, with help from preservation consultant Janie Campbell.
Campbell said she and the owners started the renovations with a “very good” photograph from 1965. From there, they were able to recreate the look of that time.
The window openings, the location of the staircase that divides the building and even the hardwood floors are original and now uncovered.
A mural that was discovered during renovation is also preserved behind sheetrock. Although visitors can’t see the original mural, Wallace and Adams plan to hang a print of it.
“People love historic buildings because of the unique character attached to each individual one and how they’ve changed over time,” Campbell said. “And so we just wanted to make sure that we were doing just that.”
Changing the Hair Building from a bar to a bookstore might mark a shift in Five Points culture. But Adams believes the area should be a place where both bookstores and bars can thrive.
“If Five Points is the Bohemian, artsy, college district, it would also have a bookstore and record stores and music shops and bars where the bands are kids who are in college,” he said. “That’s our hope, is that we’ll kind of coexist.”
The store’s hours will have it closing after sunset most nights, just in time for some of the more curious bar-hoppers to at least take a peek through the windows.
All Good Books’ grand opening event will be from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
The store’s cafe will be serving lavender lattes for “good luck,” a reference to Alice Hoffman’s book Practical Magic.
The outside of the Hair Building, home of All Good Books. The sign for the now-closed Horseshoe bar in the background shows how the 700 block of Harden Street is changing.
The meeting space inside All Good Books. The space is meant to attract book clubs and other groups. The tables typically are put together length-wise but for a recent event were turned to be separate.
The children’s section at All Good Books. Children will be able to take a lantern inside the tent to read a book from the store’s wide selection of children’s books.
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Hale is a senior journalism major at the University of South Carolina and a born-and-raised Gamecock from Bluffton, S.C. He enjoys writing about Columbia’s craft beer scene. Previously he has interned with ABC Columbia Sports (WOLO) and wrote for The Daily Gamecock. Off the clock, he can be found watching sports, playing virtual reality games or relaxing outdoors.
Leibman is a junior journalism student at the University of South Carolina. She is interested in the arts and social justice issues, often seeking out stories that examine how the topics overlap. She also has several years experience with The Daily Gamecock, where she first wrote about diversity, inclusion and access in the Columbia art scene.