Once hailed as one of the nation’s great centers for literature, Greenville’s cultural heritage has sustained yet another big blow with the announcement that McCormick’s Book Inn will shut its doors at the end of this month.
The privately owned bookstore has been a gathering place for both writers and readers since 1965. In addition to its books, the store offers a fantastic museum/archive chronicling the history of the city and the entire Delta region.
Now, an important bridge between “Old Greenville” and “New Greenville” will be no more.
I grew up right down Main Street from McCormick’s in the 1960s. A quick bike ride, and I was immersed in literature and history. I just loved everything about the place. I never had more than a quarter in my pocket, but the McCormicks were so gracious and kind. I was always encouraged to come again.
And, I did. I wanted to learn more about these prominent local writers and artists and their work. Bern and Franke Keating? Ellen Douglas? Shelby Foote? The Carters? Who were these people?
My family eventually moved across town — making for a MUCH longer bike ride — and my stops into McCormick’s became fewer. And, as I grew up on the “other side” of Greenville, I quickly realized that my schoolmates didn’t share my fascination with Greenville’s history and culture. In fact, most of them didn’t seem to know or care the city held such a past.
If the new generation wasn’t privy to the city’s shining literary past when McCormick’s was open, where will they discover it now that the store is to close?
Over the past few years, I have talked with Hugh McCormick about the struggles to keep the bookstore open. National, big-box bookstores and online retailers were steadily eroding McCormick’s already dwindling customer base. It was painful to see the hurt in his eyes when McCormick said that if things didn’t change, the store would not survive.
One of Greenville’s most dubious decisions was rejecting Delta State University. City leaders said they didn’t want the college “riffraff.” The city of Cleveland was more forward-thinking, and it should come as little surprise that its public school children surpass the rest of the Delta academically. They have a great repository of knowledge and culture right down the street, just a quick bike ride away.
Meanwhile, Greenville cannot even keep a little private bookstore open. It is, I feel, a barometer. The city is going nowhere but backwards.
I remain an avid reader today. I also have a deep, abiding love for my hometown.
A lot of the credit for that goes to the McCormicks and their store.
Thank you Hugh and Mary Dayle McCormick for your passion and commitment to seeing Greenville move ahead while honoring its past. God’s speed in your future endeavors.
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