Local bookstores warn of shortages
Plus: S.C. liquor store owner capitalizes on empty shelves in N.C.; Covid numbers stabilize; Supply-chain woes could dampen Halloween; Giant inflatable bunnies in uptown
Today’s Charlotte Ledger is sponsored by Carroll Financial, one of the Charlotte region’s oldest and largest family-owned, independent financial planning and investment management firms:
Booksellers say low supplies of certain titles foreshadow tricky holiday shopping; ‘a wild and unruly supply chain storm’
The owner of Park Road Books says some titles are getting hard to find, and the problem could get worse before the holidays. (Ledger file photo)
by Tony Mecia
With three months to go before Christmas, several Charlotte-area bookstores are warning shoppers of possible shortages of books and other printed materials, such as wall calendars.
They say that the best advice for holiday shopping is to buy now if you see something you want — because it might not be available in a month or two.
It’s the latest in a series of shortages linked to Covid and hitting many different industries, from construction to consumer goods. There are usually several causes, such as labor shortages, higher-than-usual demand and unpredictable and costly international shipping.
Holidays are always a tricky time for booksellers, but this year seems especially challenging.
Late last month, Main Street Books in Davidson sent an email to customers that said:
Y’all, there is a wild and unruly supply chain storm that erupts near the holidays each year, and this year it has already begun.
It asked customers to “bank some extra patience and faith in us in anticipation of what our upcoming season may entail.”
As with shortages elsewhere, the book crunch won’t mean that shelves will be bare and that shoppers will have no options. Instead, it means that if you’re looking for something in particular, you might not be able to find it.
At Park Road Books, owner Sally Brewster says publishers have been warning her that supplies are getting tight — especially on reprints of popular books and on items such as wall calendars.
Sometimes, there seems to be no logic to explain what’s available and what’s not. For instance, Brewster says publisher W.W. Norton is cautioning that supplies will be thin for Richard Powers’ “The Overstory,” the winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Price in fiction and that one reviewer called “the best novel ever written about trees.”
“The rep called me and said, ‘We’re low on stock — order heavy now, because the reprint isn’t coming in until mid-November,’” Brewster said.
Same with Simon & Schuster, which says it is running low on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2017 novel “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo,” a work of historical fiction about a former starlet who decides to write a tell-all book at age 79.
Brewster also wants to spread the word to teachers to check on book availability before assigning reading for classes — like Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s “Summer of the Mariposas,” originally published in 2012, about five sisters who find a dead body and then encounter heroes and monsters on their trip home. It combines elements of Mexican folklore and Homer’s The Odyssey. “There are no copies anywhere, including Amazon,” Brewster says.
The disruptions make ordering tricky for bookstores. It’s a national phenomenon. This month, trade publication Publishers Weekly quoted several book distributors saying the supply-chain disruptions were the worst they had ever seen, and that they don’t expect the problems to improve before the holidays. The difficulties stem from overseas printing, high transportation costs and labor shortages.
Also expect a run on gift books and picture calendars. The best-selling wall calendars at Park Road Books include the Broadway musical “Hamilton” and those featuring natural beauty, such as ones by the Sierra Club or featuring Ansel Adams photos.
“Do your shopping early for Christmas,” Brewster says.
Related Ledger article:
“Why are there so many shortages?” (June 9)
Today’s supporting sponsors are Landon A. Dunn, attorney-at-law in Matthews …
… and T.R. Lawing Realty:
Seizing on Mecklenburg liquor shortage, S.C. store owner hires plane to advertise in south Charlotte
A South Carolina liquor store owner is capitalizing on shortages of liquor at Mecklenburg ABC stores by hiring a plane to fly around south Charlotte with a banner touting his store — which he says is well-stocked.
After our article Wednesday comparing empty shelves at ABC stores with fully stocked shelves at Frugal MacDoogal in Fort Mill, several readers reached out with news of the plane, which is advertising for Southern Spirits in Indian Land, just south of Ballantyne:
“It was circling south Charlotte sports fields for a long time … They are low and loud,” one reader wrote.
“Every single day, a loud single engine plane flies back and forth over 485 (and my neighborhood) with a banner for Southern Spirits like it’s Myrtle Beach,” another wrote.
Up in the sky: A South Carolina liquor store owner is taking advantage of Mecklenburg’s liquor shortage by advertising with a plane carrying a banner, which are more typically seen at the beach or at big football games. (Photo sent in by Ledger reader)
Hiring the plane is the brainchild of Southern Spirits owner Don Podrebarac. He said he first enlisted a plane for advertising 19 years ago to make a splash when his store opened. Back then, he had it flying five days a week during rush hour along the southern portion of I-485, which was jammed with traffic.
He says he dusted off the idea a few weeks ago.
“I knew this would be a great way to get the word out,” he said. “With the problems with ABC in North Carolina, I’ve even adjusted. I fly a bigger route than I used to fly.”
In addition to the I-485 corridor, the plane now flies along Pineville-Matthews Road, South Boulevard, Tyvola Road and Independence Boulevard. It’s trailed by a banner with the store’s logo and web address and the words “Liquor – Beer – Wine.” (“It has to be simple,” Podrebarac explains.) The plane is operated by a company called Aerial Messages.
He says the plane and the buzz about it have been effective in driving thirsty North Carolina customers to his store on U.S. 521: “These folks want to buy things, like Tito’s vodka. They can’t find any Tito’s. I’ve got displays of Tito’s in my store. My store is fully stocked. I’ve got things you can’t get in North Carolina.”
The N.C. ABC Commission, which controls liquor distribution in North Carolina, has cast the blame for shortages on industry-wide problems such as shortages of glass bottles and delivery drivers, as well as a new warehousing and distribution vendor. Liquor sales in South Carolina are less tightly regulated.
Podrebarac says he doesn’t want to disparage North Carolina’s system or its troubles. But he doesn’t mind getting the word out that he’s ready to serve frustrated North Carolina liquor drinkers.
“The fact that it exists provides an opportunity,” he says. “We’re trying to be smart and take a very positive view towards that opportunity and let people know they can come to Southern Spirits and get what they need.” —TM
Related Ledger article:
Halloween forecast: big year for yard decorations and superhero costumes, but worries about supply chain
Surprisingly, 2020 was a great year for Charlotte-based Morris Costumes, which is both a local costume retail and rental business and one of the biggest costume distributors in the world. Although Covid derailed plans for big parties, people ramped up their home decoration game and still wanted to dress up.
Morris Costumes co-founder Amy Morris Smith predicts strong sales for Halloween 2021, too — the holiday falls on a weekend, after all — but one thing is dampening the vibe: supply chain issues, according to a report from Queens University News Service via WFAE.
Morris Smith’s staff started putting in orders for Halloween 2021 last December, but some costumes and decorations aren’t expected in until October, she said.
Yard props, superheroes: She predicts a big year for yard decorations such as fog machines, inflatables and animated statues. And superhero costumes should again be top sellers.
Read the full article by Queens University student Kiarra Murrill on WFAE’s website here.
“At costume shop, revelers aren’t spooked by Covid” (Oct. 17, 2020)
Local Covid hospitalizations level off
The number of Mecklenburg Covid patients declined for the third straight week, to an average of 388 in the prior week, the county health department said Friday. The figure is still significantly higher than the early summer lows. Numbers of confirmed daily cases (473) and the number of Covid deaths for the week (26) were also lower. (Source: Mecklenburg County Health Department)
In the park, a festival
Tens of thousands of festival goers circulated through Freedom Park for Festival in the Park this weekend, an annual celebration of art, music and food. The event has been held at Freedom Park since 1964, and has only taken two years off, including last year’s cancelation due to Covid.
Repeat offender: Are Bojangles restaurants intentionally violating zoning ordinances for free publicity? Officials in the town of Pendleton, S.C., west of Greenville, say a Bojangles wrapped in orange and purple Clemson colors violates the town’s sign ordinance. A Bojangles on Independence Boulevard in Charlotte pulled a similar stunt in May by wrapping itself in bright yellow. It removed the vinyl wrapping after code enforcement objected. (The State)
New Duckworth’s planned for SouthPark: A sixth location for Duckworth’s Grill & Taphouse will open in mid-2022 in the Piedmont Row Building in SouthPark, where Taco Mac used to be. Owner Rob Duckworth is also planning for a new cocktail bar at that location called The Loft at Duckworth’s. (Axios)
Waterfront insurance rising: Starting Oct. 1, changes to the federal flood insurance program will force some owners of coastal homes to pay dramatically higher rates that reflect the real cost of their flood risk. Officials say the goal of eliminating federal flood insurance subsidies is fairness — and also getting homeowners to understand the extent of the risk they face. In some parts of Florida, the cost of flood insurance will eventually increase tenfold, according to data obtained by The New York Times. (New York Times)
Atrium staff and bed shortages: Records from Atrium Health and interviews with employees show that staffing and bed availability levels have been low recently to the point where patients had to be diverted away from the emergency room at Atrium’s main campus, and there have been shortages of registered nurses and healthcare technicians in nearly all departments. (WBTV)
Skunked school: A skunk snuck in the back door of Lake Norman High School Friday morning and sprayed a maintenance worker, and the odor was so overpowering that the school was forced to evacuate starting at 10:45 a.m. (Observer)
New street name in Druid Hills: City officials unveiled a new street sign Friday for Druid Hills Way, replacing Jefferson Davis Street. It’s the first of nine street name changes that will be ahead in the coming months, stemming from recommendations by a city commission. Druid Hills has a long history of Black homeownership, and residents have said they resented living along a street named for a slaveholder who was the president of the Confederacy. (Observer)
Invasion of the giant bunnies
Several large inflatable bunnies are now on display in First Ward Park uptown. It’s called “Intrude” by Australian artist Amanda Parer. The bunnies, from Blumenthal Performing Arts, are available for viewing and for Instagram photos from 10 a.m. to midnight through Oct. 12.
In Friday’s newsletter, our item on a townhome rezoning in Myers Park gave the wrong name of Selwyn Avenue. (We called it “Selwyn Road” by mistake). Our apologies.
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