From its highly visible downtown location to its inventory of the best of the literary world, from its knowledgeable and dedicated staff to its tasty java, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe is an increasingly rare outpost in a world dominated by corporate booksellers. And the store's many fans will be pleased to learn that the book-industry trade magazine Publisher's Weekly shares their high opinion of this center-city fixture. The prestigious journal recently named Malaprop's founder/owner Emoeke B'Racz Bookseller of the Year.
Each year, the award recognizes one bookstore that exhibits true excellence in bookselling; eight publishing and book-distribution professionals choose the winner, based on the following criteria: community events; promotion of books and reading; innovation and uniqueness in business concept; community involvement; management/employee relations; hand-selling (matching the right customer with the right book); displays; and business efficiency.
Of course, B'Racz's intriguing personal story didn't hurt her prospects, either. Born and raised in Budapest, Hungary, the political exile -- who spoke no English -- first became a bookseller in 1970; in 1982, she opened Malaprop's. B'Racz added Downtown Books and News to her roster in 1987; 10 years later, she opened M'Press Cards and Eclectica in the former Malaprop's site. Not content merely to be a successful entrepreneur, B'Racz also launched two publishing ventures (One Page Press and Burning Bush Press), served as the president and vice president of the Southeast Booksellers Association, and lectured at several colleges. She's even ventured into translating the works of various Hungarian poets, including Katalin Ladik and Reszo Keszthelyi.
"I really do think it's an honor just to be nominated, because a good bookseller is a good bookseller, whether it's a chain or an independent," B'Racz told the Asheville Citizen-Times back in February, before the winner had been announced.
To learn more about B'Racz or Malaprop's, call 254-6734, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply go see them at 55 Haywood St.
Regular Xpress readers may remember the saga of the South Asheville Cemetery in Kenilworth: One of the city's oldest burial grounds, it was all but forgotten in recent decades. But the nonprofit South Asheville Cemetery Association is mounting a major restoration project to change all that. They're sponsoring a public land-clearing session on Saturday, June 3, and they need your help.
Between the early 19th and the mid-20th century, more than 1,000 people, mostly African-Americans, were interred in what is now called the South Asheville Cemetery. Probably the oldest black cemetery in the region, it has become a symbol of the lost historical treasures that lie buried in woods and fields across the southern United States. Some efforts have already been made to clear the area, but much work remains to undo the effects of decades of neglect.
To smooth the way for volunteers, the cemetery association has set up a shuttle service running from Memorial Stadium to the cemetery site. They recommend that volunteers wear long pants, boots and work gloves; refreshments will be provided, and the project will run rain or shine. Volunteers may sign up for either a half-day (9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or 1-6 p.m.) or the entire day. Volunteers must be at least 13 years old.
To learn more about the South Asheville Cemetery, or to offer your services, call 259-5800.
The proof ... and the pudding
Amid the continuing debate about economic development in Asheville -- what it is (and isn't), and how successful it's been recently -- it seems worth noting that the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce recently won the fifth annual Governor's Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence.
The statewide award recognizes "groups that have had a significant impact on the economic growth of their communities through the development of an entrepreneurial infrastructure," according to a recent Chamber press release. Specifically, the Chamber was honored for its efforts -- in partnership with A-B Tech and state and federal officials -- to establish a business incubator. That effort got a huge boost recently when the BASF Corporation announced that it would donate about 170,000 square feet of corporate-office space to house the Small Business Start-Up Center and a Corporate Technology Training Center.
"This is an outstanding honor, to have the leadership in Raleigh recognize the efforts of so many in our community who helped make the [Start-Up Center] a reality," said Dave Porter, vice president of economic development at the Chamber. "To have the incubator and corporate-technology training center on the site of potential developable industrial land is an invaluable marketing tool for our region."
The Chamber received the award at a dinner in Raleigh, earlier this month.
To learn more about the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, call them at 258-6101, or catch them on the Web at ashevillechamber.org.
Art for art's sake
There are few tougher ways to make a living than as an artist. For every millionaire megastar, there are legions of dedicated creative souls toiling away at day jobs, often for meager wages, simply for the right to pursue their art on their own time. That's why it's encouraging to learn about efforts like the Mountain Arts Program, which sponsors one- and-two week residencies in WNC public schools.
Artists in all disciplines are needed to work with students at various grade levels. Representatives of participating arts councils will choose between 40 and 50 artists, based on applications and interviews. Past residencies have covered everything from mural-painting, sculpture and pottery to dance, juggling, clowning and creative movement. The program has also featured photography, music and creative writing.
The idea is to involve students in the different art forms, while exposing them to a working professional in that field. The program hopes to promote understanding and respect for the arts, while giving students positive role models. The Mountain Arts Program has been around since 1983; residencies are administered by participating local arts councils and supported by locally raised funds. Last year, there were more than 100 weeks of residencies in WNC.
Auditions will be held in August; the application deadline is Friday, July 14.
To obtain an application, or to learn more about the Mountain Arts Program, call the Western Arts Agencies of North Carolina (632-2780, or 632-6066).
Bricks, mortar, sweat and tears
Asheville's remarkably rich past has produced one of the most interesting architectural legacies in the South. And now, yet another local building has been added to the National Register of Historic Places: "Old Fire Station 4," renamed the Harley Shuford Building, in honor of the recently retired fire investigator.
Built in 1927, and designed by Douglas Ellington -- the acclaimed Art Deco master who designed Asheville's City Hall, among other local treasures -- the historic structure now houses the Asheville-Buncombe Arson Task Force. "Thanks to Asheville firefighters who lovingly cared for the building when it was active as Fire Station 4 ... this building has been given the historic recognition it deserves," said departing Asheville Fire Chief John Rukavina. He also gave the nod to other AFD personnel -- particularly firefighter Joe Leen, "who cleaned up the facility."
The classy old firehouse is located at 300 Merrimon Ave.To learn more about the Harley Shuford Building, call the Fire Department at 259-5636. To learn more about other historic buildings in Asheville, call Maggie O'Connor at 259-5836.
-- cleistogamously compiled by Paul Schattel