Pamlico Books up for sale as Ryans start next chapter of life

Published 10:30 am Friday, June 28, 2024

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“We certainly didn’t plan it this way,” said Tom Ryan, the owner of Pamlico Books. For the last three years, Tom and his wife Deb poured their lives and souls into Pamlico Books, bringing Washington its first independently-owned bookstore in over 15 years. But, as they know all too well, life sometimes has other plans for you. “It has been profitable and thriving since day one,” said Ryan. “So, quite frankly the one thing that could pull us out is going to pull us out, and that is family,” as he fought to hold back the emotions. “We have some family needs and situations back in the Triangle area, which will require us to relocate by the end of the year. As a result, we are sadly putting the bookstore up for sale. Hopefully, we will find a buyer in the next few months with an ambitious vision for the store and an appreciation for the value a small bookstore plays in a small town like Washington. If not we will have to consider liquidating and closing the business before the end of the year.”

In 2020, after spending the last 15 years in the Triangle area, the Ryans were ready for the next chapter in their lives—a smaller town with a bookstore. After visiting Washington it was love at first sight. The only thing missing was a bookstore, and they immediately set out to change that. They leased the former Miracle-Ear space at 149 North Market Street and converted it into their vision of what a small bookstore should be. “We always said we didn’t want to be a place just to buy books,” said Ryan. “We created a family bookstore that has a little bit for everyone and is welcoming and inclusive. We feel we were able to accomplish that.”

In 2022, the Ryans received the annual Rena K. Terrell Commercial Upfit award for their renovation work to transform the historic space. One of Ryan’s proudest moments was receiving the chamber’s Entrepreneur of the Year award for his work with Literacy Volunteers. “One of the most gratifying things we do is our work with Literacy Volunteers and knowing we are helping to change people’s lives,” said Ryan. “All of the books in our used book room have been donated so every time we sell used books we contribute money to Literacy Volunteers of Beaufort County. Supporting their efforts to teach people how to read, get help with GEDs, and helping them to fill out job applications and rental agreements, has been a great joy. We hope that having the used book room has expanded the awareness about the work of Literacy Volunteers in our community.”

These last three years have resulted in a treasure trove of memories for the Ryans, which is why their decision to sell has been made even that much more difficult. “We have seen kids grow up in this store who were toddlers when they first came in, and now use it like it is their own,” said Ryan with a smile. “In a small town, you form a lot of relationships with the customers, who have been very supportive of us. I almost feel as if we are letting them down, but we keep reminding ourselves we are doing this for the right reason, family.”

As Ryan added, they never would have poured so much of themselves into all of this had they known it would only be for three years. And it is their hope the new owners will continue the legacy that they have started. “With a small business like this where you are the sole employee and you built it from scratch, it becomes a part of who you are,” said Ryan. “So the thought of selling a part of who you are or closing a part of who you are is not easy to consider. I don’t even want to have to consider liquidating and closing. I can’t even fathom Washington not having a bookstore.”

Prospective buyers should send an explanation of interest and relevant experience to