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The next chapter: New owner at Blue Moon Books

Rachel Sease, a longtime employee of Blue Moon, purchased the downtown Canton bookstore. Rachel Sease, a longtime employee of Blue Moon, purchased the downtown Canton bookstore. Donated photo

One of Haywood County’s used bookstores is entering its next chapter with a change of ownership and a continuation of tradition. 

“After starting Blue Moon from the bare floors and sharing our love of books with the community for the past year and a half, we are passing the torch to our dear friend, and former employee, Rachel Sease,” said Bonnie and Greg Owens, owners of Wall Street Books. “We are looking forward to this new chapter.” 

When Bonnie and Greg Owens bought Wall Street Books in Waynesville nine years ago, they were inheriting the store from Richard Roup and Joyce Elam, who opened the store in 1994, long-time devotees to the used book world. They were also taking charge of a tight-knit community that expands well beyond the bounds of Haywood County. Since that time, the family has only grown the strong tradition of local business in the county, opening Blue Moon Books in Canton.

Now, the tradition has been passed on again with Sease, long-time employee at both Wall Street and Blue Moon Books, purchasing the downtown Canton store.

Sease first crossed paths with the Owens family while teaching fourth grade at Bethel Elementary. The same year Sease had the Owens’s youngest son in her class, the family bought Wall Street Books. 

Five years down the line, Sease had left teaching for a job at First United Methodist Church when she ran into Bonnie and Greg at the grocery store. They asked her to come and work for them and, at first, Sease wasn’t sure she could make it happen in addition to her job at the church. However, as Sease puts it, “when excitement at the thought of working in a bookstore kept me up all night, I decided to try and make it work.”

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She began working one to three days a week at the bookstore, alternating between Wall Street Books and Blue Moon Books when it opened in 2022.

“I love books and I love reading, mostly because I love learning,” said Sease. “I really love books that cause me to change my perspective on something.”

For Sease, her love of books doesn’t end with their face value.

“Used bookstores in particular are so enchanting to me because they make more obvious the ways in which we’re all connected,” Sease said. “When I pick up a book at Blue Moon, I know it’s been held by at least one other set of hands.”

Some of the books in the vintage section of Blue Moon were published as early as the 1800s.

“Imagine how many hands have held them and whose shelves they’ve lived on,” said Sease. “All of these books somehow found their way to Blue Moon and stay for just a little while before continuing to weave these invisible threads from person to person. For me, it’s a constant reminder of our common humanity.” 

Her eagerness and excitement for the trade only grew with time, and soon after beginning her work in the bookstore, Sease knew she wanted her involvement to be permanent. She made it clear to Bonnie and Greg that she was invested in the business and implored them to consider her at whatever point they decided to sell.

“When they opened Blue Moon, I loved it just as much as Wall Street,” said Sease. “It means a lot that they trusted me with it.”

Sease’s time in education allowed her to experience the unifying power of stories and their ability to foster empathy. Now, she can continue this work at the helm of the bookstore.

“Through books, I experience the awe and wonder that I loved seeing in the students,” Sease said. “I hope that is the case for other adults too. Community, empathy, awe and wonder are world-changing qualities. My work at Blue Moon makes me feel like I’m bringing more of all that good stuff into the world.”

Those qualities have been on broad display in Canton over the course of the past year since news broke that the paper mill, in operation for 115 years, would close. Over 1,000 employees, many of them Canton residents, were suddenly out of work and the town government, still recovering from the devastation of the flood following Tropical Storm Fred in 2021, now had countless and unprecedented new hurdles to face.

But, like so many of Canton’s residents, Sease is optimistic about the town’s future.

“Canton is enduring the mill closure with such grace and resilience,” said Sease. “The people of this community are genuinely invested in one another’s wellbeing and determined to honor the town’s rich history even as it changes and grows. With that kind of spirit, there can only be great things to come for Canton. I’m excited to be part of it.” 

For now, Sease is not planning any sweeping changes to the Canton mainstay. Though she is looking forward to implementing book clubs, hosting small gatherings and special events.

“I’m honored to continue what Greg and Bonnie lovingly created,” she said.

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