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2019 Startup Business of the Year Expands Space and Minds

Posted By: David Jackson Chamber News ,

Downtown Boone offers an eclectic collection of restaurants and businesses that serve as a magnet for the region’s economy. Mary Ruthless looked to add to the menu of locally owned, independently managed King Street shops when she opened Foggy Pine Books in a quaint, 425-square foot space in May of 2016.

Just 19-months after opening her doors, Ruthless was presented an opportunity to relocate to a larger King Street storefront. The timing of moving a young business into an expanded space required both calculations and faith.

“(Larger space) was something I'd wanted from the start but there just wasn't anything available that fit my needs,” Ruthless recalled. “When something opened, I felt that not taking the chance would've been short sighted. That said, a lot of planning, organizing, and spreadsheet work was required before I felt comfortable taking the leap. Now we're here and the Boone community has been more supportive than I ever imagined.”

With more than four times the available floor space in her new facility, Foggy Pine Books has developed an atmosphere where customers are encouraged to take a more relaxed approach to the retail experience.

“Our typical customer is someone who loves to read and who wants a personal touch to their book shopping experience,” Ruthless said. “Our store enhances their experience by providing a safe space to explore their interests, meet with friends, or just pass an afternoon reading. By having cozy furniture, a meeting space, and booksellers on hand to chat, make book recommendations, and special order books, we're giving our community a place to connect with one another and to feel recognized in a world where our daily interactions can be faceless and dehumanizing.”

In building the initial business model, Ruthless established customer curiosity, and ultimately loyalty, through diversity.

“Inclusiveness is the cornerstone of everything we do at Foggy Pine Books. Home to all sorts of folks over the years, the mountains of Western North Carolina have often housed much more diversity than the rest of the world would believe exists here. It's been incredibly important to us, from the beginning, to represent that diversity. When you walk into Foggy Pine, no matter who you are, our hope is that you can find books on our shelves that reflect your experience and/or identity. We think that being seen, being validated in your existence, is one of the greatest things we can do when supporting community members and creating loyal customers. That's why we work so hard to build a business that reflects all the beautiful facets of our little piece of Appalachia.”

Foggy Pine Books established community outreach as a core value early in their business planning. Partnering with OASIS to begin a holiday book drive and supporting The Children’s Playhouse Storytime series has attracted new customers through increased brand recognition. These efforts helped Foggy Pine Books surpass revenue projections in 2019, breaking their daily sales record three times in the month of December alone.

“Make sure your community feels like a part of your business,” Ruthless said. “Without the Boone community's support, no amount of work that I or any of my staff could do would mean anything.”