The best bookstores are a cocktail of three essential ingredients: book-lined shelves for getting sufficiently lost; a quiet spot to sink into the magic of a well-told story; and an overall aura of comfy, neighborly charm. Of course it doesn’t hurt if a toasty mug is involved, and if you’re at Joe’s Place, there might even be a glass of wine.
The Inside Story // Joe’s Place offers a fine collection of reads, coffee, and wine in a quaint new space.
If this sounds like print paradise to you, a few hours spent perusing the pages of this delightful family-run shop is well worth an outing. Owned by Alix and Mary Bernard, Joe’s Place is a used bookstore three years in the making, named for Mary’s late brother Joe, a lover of a good read. Formerly of the West End, the shop now operates (as of July) in an early twentieth-century home on the corner of Williams and Washington streets.
“We decided we loved what we were doing and wanted to invest in ourselves,” Mary explains of the recent move—in other words exit the renting world and purchase a place that was all their own. The challenge was finding where to go. After scouring the West End for the ideal venue, Mary and Alix turned to the area around the Pettigru District, and found their dream spot right across the street from the Poinsett Club.
“As soon as we walked into this one,” Mary says, “it was like, oh my gosh, this is a great bookstore.” A great bookstore perhaps, but one in need of some significant renovations. Utilized as commercial office space for decades, the building was not only dirty and dusty but, according to Alix, even “the kitchen was missing the floor.” Capital Construction of the Carolinas came in and, among many improvements, added a staircase, an electric lift to the second floor, and spiffied up the side porch—one of the shop’s countless spots to sip wine and settle into a good read.
A tour of the new space reveals periwinkle-gray walls and white bookcases. A downstairs wine bar boasts a repurposed wood ceiling, and just past the plump red armchairs—previously of the Grove Park Inn—there’s an espresso bar where the building’s old, unused doors are incorporated into its structure. Here you’ll find brews from Due South Coffee Roasters, complete with an exclusive “Joe’s Place” espresso blend. A variety of comestibles from Upcountry Provisions is available, along with Lowcountry Ladle and LaRue Fine Chocolates. Alix’s artwork—he’s a painter and illustrator—lines the walls, including a delicate watercolor of their new building, which was Mary’s Christmas present.
Feeling Bookish // Enjoy your read with a sparkling white or a full-bodied red— the bookstore’s wine options are available by the glass or in a wine flight. The coffee bar (above) features a variety of brews crafted from Due South Coffee Roasters’ beans, as well as nibbles from Upcountry Provisions.
Upstairs is where the remaining books live. The rooms, which can be reserved for meetings, are themed according to genre, and offer a mix of window seats, benches, and even a table from the Blue Ridge Dining Room at the Grove Park. There are hundreds of books ranging from biographies to local mysteries to fantasies, and though most are used, a portion of their inventory is new.
“Used doesn’t necessarily mean old,” Mary explains. “Although, we do have vintage books here, which is one of my husband’s passions.”
If Alix’s passion is vintage books, Mary’s is vintage wines. Or just wine in general. Joe’s Place hosts regular wine classes, featuring eclectic bottles and progressive food pairings. Wines available for tasting are often from small, family-owned vineyards, continuing a community-centric theme that’s woven into the entire store.
From the monthly trivia nights to live music to the welcome messages sketched onto the foyer’s chalkboard wall, Joe’s Place is the definition of a neighborhood bookstore.
Joe’s Place, 2 Williams St, Greenville. Mon–Thurs, 8am–7pm, Fri, 8am– Until, Sat, 10am–Until. Closed Sundays. (864) 558-0828, joesplacellc.com