Malaprop’s Book Store Cafe: Happy 33rd Anniversary, June 1, 2015

Malaprop’s Book Store and Cafe isn’t where it started out. The book store opened in 1982 at 61 Haywood Street. O’Henry’s Bar and Restaurant was next door at 59 Haywood Street. It might help newcomers to town to know that these two sites are the current homes of Southern Charm Boutique (which recently replaced Origami Ink) and Sensibilities Spa.

As Malaprop’s owner Emoke B’Racz says on the book store’s website, at that time, with the abandoned state of downtown, “You could walk three blocks in any direction before you found a door not nailed down.”

What wasn’t downtown? Sears Roebuck and Co. left downtown and moved to the Asheville Mall in 1972, Belk’s Department store in 1973, Bon Marche in 1979, and Penny’s, the last holder on, went in 1989. Even the S&W Cafeteria chose the mall and left its beautiful home on Patton Avenue in 1973. Woolworth’s remained on Haywood Street until 1993.

Malaprop’s was one of the main businesses we have to thank for the revival of the downtown we all so love and enjoy today.

Malaprop’s Cafe had a couple of rough starts, but became a haven for quite a few people. There was an art wall at the back of the room and a good list of musical performances, as well as book readings downstairs.

This was one of my favorite bands, shown here around 1987.  Hilary Dirlam is on guitar, the fiddler is Dona Cavanaugh, and the mandolin player is Elizabeth Ann Wyndelts, past owner of the Futon store on Broadway. The three of them were the band “Too Hot To Cook” and played around WNC for about 20 years.


This shot of the audience at Malaprop’s Cafe shows David Hurand of WCQS on left center at the bar. Robert Bauwmann is to the right with glasses and small child. Is anyone else identifiable? Let us know.

Barbera Sayer from WCQS contacted us after seeing this post thinks it was some type of WCQS event as so many people there worked at the radio station. She further identified WLOS staff: the person doing sound is Wolfgang Rinehart. Man with glasses and child is Robert Baumann with his son Gabriel. Woman in foreground with thick dark hair and glasses is Linda Frankel, wife of Chip Kaufmann. Man in front with full beard is Tom Draughon. Beth McGill, Jim McGill’s wife is also in the photo.

Congratulations, Malaprop’s, on giving us 33 years of good books and good coffee and changing the face of downtown Asheville!

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian.
Addendum: I found these photographs in my closet last winter. I was an employee of Malaprop’s for eight years. Being a librarian in the North Carolina Room for over 20 years, and being responsible for collecting the city’s history, I was surprised to find these photos hidden away in my stuff but quickly realized the importance of adding these photos to the North Carolina collection. Do you have any photos hidden away in your closets we might like to add to our collection, to save and preserve and pass on to future generations, giving color to our city’s past? If you don’t want to donate the originals, please give us the chance to scan them.

1 Comment

  1. Love these posts, Zoe. Thanks for keeping up Heard Tell! BTW, Marilyn Ball is looking for photos (for a book she’s doing) from around the time the city was willing to give 11 blocks of downtown to a Philadelphia developer to make a mall. She’s on FB in case you have any.

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