Manteo Booksellers, flooded during Irene, needs your help

Dear Readers,

What follows is a call to action to help save one of North Carolina’s coolest bookstores, Manteo Booksellers, on Roanoke Island. Currently, the little store is shuttered, its contents destroyed by Hurricane Irene.

photo by Kermit Skinner, Manteo Town Manager

We here at the UNC Press love Manteo Booksellers for many reasons. Some of us know it personally, and, like me, are fans and shoppers.

Others of us here work directly with Steve Brumfield, the proprietor, to get our books and our authors in the store.

Others of us are authors, who have appeared in the store to sign books and meet readers.

A child of the coast, I’ve been visiting the store for years—browsing their shelves, poring over their postcards, scratching resident kitties, and, in recent years, picking out the UNC Press books I’ve worked on and noting them with pride. I always stop in when I’m in town and rarely come out empty-handed.

This little store is packed with an amazing collection of books, from beach books and children’s literature to local and regional titles, serious fiction, and art books—I could go on and on. It is a treasure.

photo by Kermit Skinner, Manteo Town Manager

So we were devastated to hear that our dear bookstore was wiped out by Irene. The water rose throughout the day of Hurricane Irene and into the night. You can see, from the pictures, just how bad it got.

And now, we hear, we are able to do something for them. So, I call on all of the UNC Press family and all our friends, all our authors, and all you readers to make your voices heard.

Here’s an appeal from Jim Fineman, a potter on Roanoke Island, and a good friend of Manteo Booksellers:

Manteo took a big hit from Irene – more water than anyone can recall – and the town has changed radically. Some businesses have closed forever, and the flood prone locations may be vacant for a long time. There are mountains of debris and an abundance of emergency crews, disaster mitigation teams, newscasters, contractors, soup kitchens, politicians, & gawkers. Manteo Booksellers was one of many businesses wiped out by the flood. US Senator Kay Hagan walked the streets, saw the devastation, & talked to people, including Steve. A positive & speedy settlement on his FEMA insurance claim is the only way he can consider reopening, and there have been serious roadblocks to this process. Please take a moment to write to Senator Hagan. Urge her to expedite this process and tell her what the bookstore has meant to you and the community. This needs to happen as soon as possible; anything you can do will be greatly appreciated.

And a note from Steve Brumfield, himself:

I’ve already had many people email me, send cards, call on the phone and just plain stop me on the street to tell me how sorry they are about the bookshop being closed. They all want to see the bookshop re-open. And many of these folks have had stories about growing up with the bookshop over the past quarter of a century, and often now their kids are growing up with it too (or they did until the Hurricane).

Then my request is that anyone who wants to see Manteo Booksellers re-open write to Senator Kay Hagan. Her web address is: Emails might be ok. But real letters with real signatures might be better. Phone calls aren’t bad either.

What I’m hoping is that people will share a little of what the bookshop meant to them as a cultural, economic and literary place, and how vital it is to our little town to not only keep all of us going, but those of us (like the bookshop) who were devastated. If just ½ the people who have contacted me with support contacted Senator Hagan, I think it might make a difference.

So, dear readers, we ask you to do your part, if you feel so moved. We hope you do.



  1. Beth,

    Thank you for your blog (which I just saw today 9-23-11) and kind words about Manteo Booksellers. I have had over 26 years working with authors, publishers and UNC Press in particular, and it has been a very rewarding experience. I have truly been amazed and overwhelmed with community and far-reaching support through calls, letters and emails and even donations. Unfortunately I still have no economic answer as to whether I can re-open or not. I appreciate the working relationship that UNC Press and Manteo Booksellers has had over the past quarter of a century. And it has been my honor to meet your authors and sell their books. I will keep you posted regarding any progress.

    Best wishes,

    Steve Brumfield
    Manteo Booksellers

  2. Steve, and everyone,

    This is indeed a tragedy. We’re in Maryland and feel the shock way up here. We own property in Southern Shores and Manteo Booksellers is always our first destination when there.

    We’ve written letters to the senator, encouraged our friends to do so and are hoping Book the cat will soon resume her position, perched upon the counter there, or asleep in a soft chair.

    Robert and Lucy
    Gaithersburg, MD

  3. I am devastated that Manteo Booksellers will not re-open. We have come to the Outer Banks from New York for almost 14 years and the shop was a major stop for us. As an author, I’ve had autograph signings there as well.

    I implore the senator to offer aid and find a way to help this beautiful haven for book lovers to open up again.

    • Manteo Booksellers is gone, replaced by something called Downtown Books. The folks are nice enough, & still an indie bookstore, but it’s a different sort of operation. I was in there today. It’s smaller too, with part of the original space occupied now by an artist. And no cats!

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