Convenience is costing more than it should these days. The word itself has lost meaning, thanks to the Roach Motel design of our strip malls peppered with Super Wal-Marts and Office Maxes. Need four pounds of Pop-Tarts for three dollars? Only willing to spend nine bucks on the 50 Cent album? You can find these deals at New Hope Commons, or anywhere in Cary, but the price tags don't tally up how much of your soul gets sucked away trying to park in one of these satellite hells or waiting in line like a cow bracing for slaughter.
Slaughter indeed, as in addition to said loss of humanity, the loss of customers for local merchants is a casualty of the new shopping paradigm choking our cities and highways. According to a recent study that compared the respective impacts of a local bookstore and its Borders competition on the local economy in Austin, Texas, more money stays in the community from shopping at local businesses. For every $100 spent at BookPeople, one of Austin's largest independent bookstores, $45 was recycled locally--for the same amount spent at the Borders location, only $13 stayed in the community and the rest went off to headquarters.
One of the most political actions you can take is deciding where you spend your money. There are plenty of goods and services you can find around the Triangle provided by local businesses, some that'll save you a few bucks and keep your mind from being numbed by the traffic clustered around most centers of mass commerce.
A co-op grocery store is not just a place to find obscure Chinese herbs in bulk and really expensive milk; it's an often overlooked source of real food and chemical-free snacks. The Durham Co-Op ($25 annual membership fee gets you a 5-percent discount, and if you volunteer a few hours a week, your discount increases) is a friendly, inviting source of the best organic produce in the city (which includes the tastiest selection of seasonal fruits around--blueberries, strawberries, melons). All those natural and organic brands (Amy's pot pies and pizzas, Boca burgers, etc.) now featured in the "healthy" sections of area Harris Teeters and Krogers can be found at the co-op for at least two bucks cheaper than the chains' prices. And a gallon of water is a quarter--why should it cost any more than that?
Carrboro's Weaver Street Market is a much larger co-operative with an added bakery, a stellar meat and poultry department, a huge wine and beer selection, and a completely organic hot bar for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Naturally, there are plenty of items you may not be able to find at either of these locations, but just so you know, Whole Foods is a chain. It's larger than any of the local co-ops, yes, and it has some cute signs telling you what's on each aisle, but they've commodified and packaged the idea of a health foods store. It's about as locally owned as USA Today.
There's no lack of bakeries in the Triangle, either. Neomonde, a Middle Eastern bakery with locations in Raleigh and Morrisville, provides fresh pita bread both at their locations and various groceries throughout the Triangle. Ninth Street Bakery in Durham sells its past-dated bread for $1.50 a loaf every day (and $1 on Wednesdays), but only from its bakehouse location in downtown Durham--those tasty loaves are at least $3 in local groceries. And Gugulhupf, the Taj Mahal of baked goods for the Triangle, offers an amazing selection of fresh-baked breads and cream puffs, among other pastries.
With the sad passing of Durham's beloved Radio Free Records, the Triangle has lost a vital organ of its locally owned record store body, but independent blood still flows through the veins of Raleigh and Chapel Hill. CD Alley, located on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, is a tiny space stuffed with records, CDs, and DVDs, with the best used CD selection in the Triangle and a charismatic staff. Madd Waxx, down the street from the Durham Co-Op, offers the latest hip-hop and R&B releases with tons of 12-inch singles. The Raleigh and Chapel Hill Schoolkids Records locations are voluminous libraries of music, stocking the entire catalogs from most of the artists found in the racks. Many of these stores also host midnight sales on the eve of highly anticipated releases--when's the last time Best Buy did that?
Need to synthetically fuel your brain while you study, or just want to hang out and drink coffee somewhere other than Starbucks? There's no dearth of coffeeshops in the Triangle that aren't tentacles of large corporations. Even if you want a drink that takes five minutes and four ingredients to make, the three locally owned Cup A Joe locations (one in Chapel Hill and two in Raleigh) can accommodate your needs easily; the Hillsborough Street branch, right down the street from the N.C. State University campus, also has a smoking room where grad students and bizarre locals alike can puff to their hearts' content.
The Third Place, next to Lilly's Pizza in Raleigh's Five Points neighborhood, has a great front patio to hang out on while you down their perfectly foamed cappuccinos or propose marriage. In Durham, Ninth Street's Cafe at the Regulator (located in the bottom level of the Regulator Bookstore) has strong coffee, wireless internet access, and made-to-order sandwiches.
Carrboro's Open Eye Cafe is a cozy, intimate little nook with soft couches and paintings or photos on the walls by local artists. All these places offer fresh pastries from local bakeries--similar items found at Starbucks and Caribou Coffee are delivered by truck and thawed before consumption.
The aforementioned Regulator Bookstore is one of the finest such establishments in the Triangle. Warm and inviting, the store personalizes most everything they do, with handwritten staff reviews of the latest releases on the shelves and fast special orders. Their frequent book readings feature national authors such as Dave Eggers and Dennis Lehane reading from their latest works in the downstairs of the store.
The Quail Ridge Bookstore in Raleigh also hosts weekly book readings and signings, and their book club plans frequent events.
If you're on a budget, Nice Price Books has locations in Carrboro, Durham, and Raleigh, all full of used books--a great place to grab copies of those classic works required for English class (all three
Nice Price locations also feature enormous sections of used CDs and vinyl, a great source of both cheap and collectible-priced records). Franklin Street's The Bookstore is one of the largest used book dealers in the Triangle, with sections from gardening to the occult giving off that comforting bookstore smell. Head to the rear of the store to the "bargain basement alcove," to peruse thousands of 50-cent hardbacks and 25-cent paperbacks. Providing you with intellectual ammo for the uphill battle of next year's elections is Chapel Hill's Internationalist Bookstore , a non-profit organization with plenty of liberal-minded tomes and frequent activist workshops.
By no means does this listing cover the vast array of local businesses in the Triangle, but hopefully it's a start. The chains have more money, more resources, and more name recognition, but they're missing a vital ingredient, something that the locals on this list have in bulk--a pulse.
The Book Exchange, 107 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham, 682-4662
Book Market, Carr Mill Mall, Carrboro, 929-7264
Small nook with floor-to-ceiling used books.
Books Do Furnish a Room, 1809 W. Markham Ave., Durham, 286-1076
Books on Ninth, 716A Ninth St., Durham, 286-3170
Lots of used books; also a great place to go for Mac repairs.
Books & Things, 1924 Capital Blvd., Raleigh, 664-8466
The Bookshop, 400 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, 942-5178
Branch's Chapel Hill Bookshop, 243 S. Elliott Road, 968-9110
Capital Comics, 5212 Holly Ridge Dr., Raleigh, 781-9500
Great source of mainstream and obscure, new and old comics.
Lucy's Book Exchange, 6911 Capital Blvd., Raleigh, 878-0625
More than 750,000 new and used books, with a massive science fiction and fantasy section.
Nice Price Books (three locations), 3106 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, 829-0230; 811 Broad St., Durham, 416-1066; 100 Boyd St., Carrboro, 929-6222.
Reader's Corner, 3201 Hillsborough St., 828-7024
Tons of used books, magazines, comics, and records. Bargain bin of discounted titles.
The Regulator Bookshop, 720 9th St., Durham, 286-2700.
Second Foundation Bookstore, 136 E. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill, 967-4439.
Massive selection of comics, graphic novels, and role-playing games.
Bean Traders, 249 W. NC Hwy 54, Durham, 484
Great place owned by young hip husband and wife who roast their own coffee, play great music, and are more than accommodating even at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m.
Blue Coffee Company, 714 Ninth St.,
Ninth Street's newest coffee shop is a two-story affair, with cozy couches and plenty of quiet downstairs. Everything's local, from the pastries to the coffee, which is roasted nearby.
Bob & Aviva's Java Cafe, 231 S. Elliott Rd., Chapel Hill, 967-4888
Cafe at the Regulator, 720 9th St., Durham, 416-8551
Caffe Driade, 1215-A E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, 942-2333
Ultra-hip little coffee and wine bar tucked away in the woods. Lots of outdoor tables, the best milkshakes in Chapel Hill and a humidor full of fancy cigars.
Cup A Joe (four locations), 2109 Avent Ferry Rd., Raleigh, 828-9886; 5039 Falls of Neuse Rd., Raleigh, 876-4588; 3100 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, 828-9665; 1129 Weaver Dairy Rd., Chapel Hill, 967-2002
Encounters Cafe, 2522 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, 839-2233
Francesca's Dessert Cafe, 706 B Ninth St., Durham, 286-4177
Amazing coffee, homemade pastries and unbelievable gelato made in-house. Open late, which makes it perfect for an after-dinner excursion or a romantic date.
Global Village Organic Coffee, 2428 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, 828-4567
Great coffee and vegetarian and vegan sandwiches. Desserts provided by Francesca's (see above).
New World Music Cafe, 4112-124 Pleasant Valley Rd., Raleigh, 786-0091
Live new age music every week along with small selection of world and new age CDs. Smoke-free, sandwiches made to order.
Open Eye Cafe, 100 E. Main St., Carrboro, 968-9410
Saladelia Cafe, 4201 University Dr., Durham, 489-5776
The Third Place Coffeehouse, 1811 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, 834-6566
Durham Food Co-Op, 1101 W. Chapel Hill St, 490-0929
Farmers Markets: The historic Durham Athletic Park hosts the Bull City's weekly gathering of fresh local produce, crafts and other goods every Saturday morning. Raleigh's 75-acre open-air market is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays, at 1201 Agriculture St., 733-7417. In Orange County, shoppers can find the fruits of local agriculture two places: the Carrboro Farmers Market, Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Town Commons, 301 W. Main Street, 493-2906; and in Hillsborough, Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon at the corner of Central and Myrtle, and Wednesday afternoons in the sheriff's department lot on E. Margaret Lane.
Fowler's Market, 112 S. Duke St., Durham; 683-2555
Upscale gourmet items; great wine and cheese selections.
CD Alley, 405 Franklin St., Chapel Hill; 960-9272
Crooked Beat Records, 2233 Avent Ferry Rd., Raleigh, 836-9900
Four Four Records, 200 S. West St., Raleigh, 754-1483; www.4-4records.com
Tons of vinyl--hip hop, drum and bass, dancehall--and DJ equipment.
Ground Zero Records, 105 E. Main St., Carrboro, 932-9293;
Specializing in underground dance vinyl for DJs: drum and bass, breaks, house, trance, techno, hardcore and special orders.
Lost City Music & Video, 402 W. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill, 933-5678
Lots of CDs and vinyl; good selection of imports.
Madd Waxx, 1007 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham; 680-2944
Nice Price Books (three Triangle locations), 3106 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, 829-0230; 811 Broad St., Durham, 416-1066; 100 Boyd St., Carrboro, 929-6222
Record Exchange (two Raleigh locations), 2109-144 Avent Ferry Rd (in Mission Valley Shopping Center), 831-2300; 2302-106 Hillsborough St., 831-9666
Buy, sell and trade new and used music and video games.
Schoolkids (three Triangle locations) 2316-104 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, 821-7766; 144 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, 929-7766; 1275 Kildaire Farm Rd., Cary, 319-9966
Willie's Records, Tapes and CDs (three locations), 4111 New Bern Ave., Raleigh, 250-0500; 3500 N. Roxboro Rd, Durham, 220-5345; 137 Village Shopping Center, Durham, 688-4565.
Avid Video, 611 Broad St., Durham, 286-1104
Cozy shop owned by husband-and-wife team; great selection of DVDs and cult videos in addition to new releases.
Lost City Music & Video, 402 W. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill, 933-5678
Large selection of cult, anime, off-the-beaten path films.
North American Video (three Raleigh locations), 2031 Smallwood Dr., 828-5880; 200 Forest Hills Dr., 779-9500; 5663 Western Blvd., 851-8900
Video Plus, Hwy. 54 near White Cross, Chapel Hill, 918-3872.
Visart Video (five locations), 301 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, 967-9248; 300 E. Main St., Carrboro, 932-1945; 225 S. Elliott Rd. (Village Plaza), Chapel Hill, 929-4584; 3405 Hillsborough Rd., Durham, 382-0650; 1821 ML King Pkwy, Durham, 493-7740
The Triangle's largest group of locally owned video stores. Tons of new releases on VHS and DVD, large foreign-film sections, japanimation, independent films.