Out and about on WRAL.com

– If you enter Readers’ corner on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh you’ll instantly be surrounded by thousands of pounds. But the only story to focus on today is the man who sells them all for pocket change and then gives a portion of the profits.

Irv Coats has sold a lot of books over the years, each for the same reason.

“You do it because you love the books, and that’s what really matters,” Coats said.

Coats began their collection over 70 years ago when the local city library needed to free up space. He asked the mayor if he could have them, and …

“We found a vacant house in town and I stole my dad’s car, and we spent a couple of days trucking all the books into the vacant house,” Coats said. “And that’s how I started.”

This is just one of many fascinating chapters in his life.

“I worked in the radiation field, so a lot of reactors,” Coats said. “I worked on the first nuclear powered submarine. I’ve worked on x-rays, microwave ovens, things like that.

He even worked on the Manhattan Project sequels! But even that wasn’t cool enough to keep her away from her first love. He had to be faithful to his shelf.

“I always knew I was going to have a bookstore. I loved books so much, ”he said. “I finally got the bookstore. My mom – the only career advice she ever gave me – said, “Now you’re finally doing something that’s right for you. “

So, in 1980, he bought Reader’s Corner. And he’s been there almost every day since.

“I’d rather be here than anywhere else,” he says. “It’s painful to stay at home. I want to come in and play with the books.

And how does 87-year-old Coats get to work? By bike, of course.

“I would have died years ago without the bike,” he joked. “It’s about four miles each way, just enough for a little exercise, you know?” “

Also providing him with exercise involves carrying all the books around.

“We buy a thousand pounds a day and sell a thousand pounds a day, and most of them come out,” Coats explained.

You will find the cheapest books in the country outside. On one side of the main entrance is a rack for 25 cents each. The other? One cent.

But Irv, what if someone steals them?

“They don’t steal them, they bring back more! he laughs.

He may not sell them at a high price, but the benefits add up. So, in the spirit of learning, he pours it into National Public Radio, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.

“I love NPR. You get more education per dollar on it than anything you do, ”Coats said. “Try to keep a little sanity and boy, do we need it.”

You might be wondering how he can afford to give so much money.

“I retired. I was in the radiological health office of the public health service, and you are 20 years old. It’s like a military thing,” he explained. “So j ‘spent 20 years in the public health service and I received half of my salary, so I retired in 77, that is to say a long time ago, and I no longer touched salary ever since. I still live on half my salary from the government, so I don’t need it.

But cash flow took a hit when COVID-19 hit.

“Things were starting to accelerate before the virus hit. Things were going great, ”Coats said. “The store was packed. I hired more people, gave everyone a big raise, and the next day we were shut down. “

If you think the pandemic stopped Irv, well, you didn’t care.

“I never stopped, in fact I worked harder than ever,” he said.

He had the original idea to work exclusively from his back office

“It (COVID) hasn’t stopped internet business at all,” he explained. “So I was in this cell right here, locked up, windowless. I am here every day to pack books and transport them to the post office, fearing to catch the virus on my way to the post office. But no chance of getting the virus back here alone, and that’s how we made enough money to pay for aid and keep the lights on.

It took a little ingenuity, but Irv’s sincerity is perhaps his best quality. He is who he is, and the community is better off for it.

“I don’t care about the profit; I just care about having a nice bookstore.

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