The Fayetteville City Council on Monday ordered the demolition of the home of a long-running mom-and-pop bookstore on Murchison Road, but there’s still a chance for a happy ending in the store’s next chapter.
As a practical matter, a demolition order takes about four months for the city to carry out, staff told the City Council as council members debated on Monday evening whether to put the wrecking ball to BJ’s Used Book Exchange. The store has been in business since 1981. In the four-month period, the bookstore’s landlord, Albèr Treadwell, can make repairs and stave off the demolition if he is deemed to be making meaningful progress.
The four-month reprieve is a relief to the store’s owners: Rudy Edwards, his sister Nancy Edwards, and their father Wyman Edwards. Nancy and Rudy said in interviews they thought they would have only 10 days to vacate — too little time, they said, to find a new, affordable location and move the inventory.
“We’re in no way prepared,” Nancy Edwards said last week.
But if all goes well, the Edwards family won’t have to move or shutter their store.
The city isn’t targeting BJ’s. The bookstore is caught in the middle in a long-running conflict between the city’s code enforcement office and Treadwell over the maintenance and upkeep of the three-storefront shopping center that Treadwell owns on the 4900 block of Murchison Road. Since 2015, the city has listed 27 complaints against the property.
A year ago, the city gave Treadwell six months to either make repairs or tear down the shopping center.
In an interview on Monday, Treadwell said he had worked on the property and thought he had resolved the issues the city had flagged. He said he is unclear on what problems the city continues to have, and he would talk to the city staff to learn exactly what is expected of him.
The order from last year said “conditions do exist which constitute a fire, health and/or safety hazard rendering the building dangerous to life, health and other property.”
In particular, the order said the porch railings, columns and ceilings, walls, roofing material, trim and fascia were in bad shape.
This year, on Nov. 8, Fayetteville Code Enforcement Supervisor Dereke G. Planter Jr. continued to find problems. Pictures he provided to the City Council show rotting boards and damaged ceilings on the exterior porch and roof areas, and other defects.
Since late 1981, BJ’s has had one of three storefronts, and today is the only tenant, in the Murchison Road shopping center. This was the store’s second location, after Wyman Edwards and his wife, Jutta, briefly operated it out of a house on Murchison Road earlier in 1981, Rudy Edwards said.
Forty-two years later, Rudy and his sister Nancy Edwards still run the 4,000-square-foot shop with Wyman. Jutta Edwards died several weeks ago, they said. Some customers come from out-of-town to peruse the novels and other books, the DVDs and music CDs, they said.
Recently, the store featured photos on its Facebook page of an 1877 edition of a Russian history book that once was on the shelves at a library in Salt Lake City, Utah. “This is a fun treasure,” the caption reads.
In May, the store reported it had first-edition copies of the 20th-century classics “From Here to Eternity” and “The Thin Red Line,” by novelist James Jones.
The store is in City Council District 3, represented by Councilmember Mario Benavente. Benavente met with Treadwell and Rudy Edwards before the City Council meeting on Monday and then again with Edwards after the vote to demolish Treadwell’s shopping center.
“It’s going to be a cold water shock to me when — when this happens,” Edwards told Benavente. He described it as an “unmitigated disaster.”
“Hopefully in the next four months there can be an alternative outcome than what is currently set to happen,” Benavente said. “It’s really on the landlord at this point to do what he’s supposed to do. So I hope that he does, for the sake of y’all’s business.”
The city would rather that Treadwell repair the property, Benavente said, than spend taxpayer money to tear it down.
Benavente told Edwards to contact him if Treadwell doesn’t get the shopping center repaired, and the bookstore has to vacate and move to a location. The city wants to keep local businesses running, Benavente said, and may have resources to help his family.
Senior reporter Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and email@example.com.