Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cantos Booksellers on the Sale Block

The exterior of Cantos Booksellers on Roanoke City Market, the only new book store in downtown Roanoke for years.^

Rob Clark, who used to own Cantos, is now in charge of selling it.^

The nearly vacant interior (above); the last book in the window (below left).^

It appears that Catherine Procopio, the oft-criticized owner of Cantos Booksellers in downtown Roanoke, has closed the shop and put it on the market with an ironic touch: the previous owner of Cantos, Rob Clark of MKB Realtors is handling the sale of the building.

Clark and his wife, Jennie Nolen, were the popular owners of the small book shop, the last high-profile book store in downtown Roanoke (Eclectic Books is tucked away in a low-profile shop on Campbell Ave. and not many people even know it's there). When Clark sold Cantos a few years ago because he wasn't making quite enough money to support his family well (though he insisted he was very happy with the store), the agent for the sale of the business was Jim Lindsey, who had owned Captain Books in the 1970s and is often considered one of the pioneers of the modern City Market.

Insiderpages gives you a good idea why the store finally failed, with a large number of complaints lodged here. An example reads: "I always prefer to shop at locally owned stores, but Cantos has driven me away for good. I can appreciate a quirky store owner, but this lady is crazy. How am I supposed to choose a book without previewing the content?" Bad customer relations is the most frequent complaint here, though former customer Mike Kennedy posted this on Facebook: "I have found the owner both infuriating and charming, depending upon her mood, or mine. Yes, I have taken the vow of avoidance after what I considered shoddy treatment. At other times, we have engaged in long, interesting chats about books."


  1. I wondered how much longer she would be around after reading those complaints a few months ago. I never had that experience while in there but the tales were entertaining.

  2. i was walking past cantos with a friend on sunday, talking about my plan to organize a flash mob to go in there and stand around touching the books, and then we discovered it was closing. man, finally. that that's what became of rob's beautiful store is heartbreaking.

  3. When I first went in there, it was years ago when Clark must've owned it, and I had pleasant visits.

    But when Procopio moved in, it changed. My personal experience was almost carbon copy of the others--having books taken out of my hand, etc.--except she bordered on ranting about how Barnes and Noble have "taught people it's acceptable to read the books." But what I heard her say to someone else was the worst. I heard Propcopio talking to a man and his teenage daughter at the front counter. The girl quietly but eagerly revealed she wanted to be a writer, and Procopio immediately proceeded to tell her every negative thing she could about being a writer--about how discouraging it was, how the girl shouldn't expect to ever be published, how she'd never make any money at it, all of that. The girl would speak up and say she just wanted to write because she loves it, and Procopio would come up with something else to shoot her down. What a horrible thing to do to that young lady. I can't imagine that woman having an speck of love for the written word. Perhaps she should've bought a china shop instead?

    I feel sorry for Roanoke that what was once a great bookstore got run into the ground by her, and sorry for Clark that what he built wound up in such hands. I'm just grateful we still have Ram's Head, and I hope they'll be with us a long time.