Viola the bookmobile has rambled the greater Charleston area for the past three years, offering books for sale at farmers' markets, breweries and anywhere else she was welcomed.
This week, Viola's owners — the proprietors of the Itinerant Literate mobile bookstore — opened the doors on a new venture: A non-mobile store in North Charleston's Park Circle neighborhood that they've dubbed the Itinerant Literate Bookstop. The store opened this week and holds a grand opening Saturday.
"We always wanted to own an actual, real brick-and-mortar bookstore but just didn't have the financial means or the experience to do so three years ago," said co-owner Christen Thompson.
Thompson said she and business partner Julia Turner first heard about the retail space at 4824 Chateau Ave. during an informal meeting of women business owners known as the Park Circle Goddesses.
Once a vacant house, the building has been the home of three consecutive women-owned businesses in five years: The Orange Spot coffee shop, Roadside Blooms florist, and now the Itinerant Literate. Thompson said Laura Cannon and Julie Buelk, co-owners of the Orange Spot, even shared their original renovation blueprints with her so she'd have an idea of what supplies she'd need to revamp the interior.
"I guess this place has some kind of feminist magic that I'm very into," Thompson said.
The Orange Spot and Roadside Blooms have since moved on to larger storefronts in Park Circle. Toni Reale, owner of the flower shop, said the sequence of tenants at the old Chateau Avenue location was not lost on her.
"It's almost like a little incubator space for lady-owned businesses — and creative businesses, too," Reale said.
At the new Itinerant Literate store, Thompson and Turner have moved up from a 120-square-foot trailer to a 675-square-foot standalone building, allowing them to spread the shelves out and have separate rooms for fiction, nonfiction and children's books.
Viola, who was named by a vote of faithful customers, stays parked in the backyard, ready to be towed to the next big event.
"We still take her around," Thompson said.