ASHEBORO — An Asheboro landmark shut its doors for the last time on Dec. 31, ending a run of 67 years.
Faith Book Nook, 514 E. Dixie Drive, was historic in its own way, having been opened by a woman in 1954. Ethel Burrows started the Christian-based book store during a time when women were expected to remain in the background of male-dominated business.
The family-run store was passed down over the years, to daughter Elaine Cox and later to grandson Rayvon Cox. Rayvon’s widow, Doris Cox, took over when he died in 2018.
“I’m sad over the closing,” Doris Cox said, “but it came to the point that we had no choice. I hate it for our customers, who have no place close for their supplies.”
But Cox prefers to focus on her late husband’s grandmother, Ethel Burrows. “For her to start a business in 1954, that was something for a woman back then. Her husband, Virgil, helped and when he retired (from Acme-McCrary), they both ran it.”
Cox said the Burrows lived just across Cox Avenue from Faith Book Nook during the early days. “She would go home to bake a cake and leave a note to tell customers to leave their money on the counter. They didn’t have the issues of today. She never locked her doors.”
Ethel Burrows died in 1996 at the age of 92 but never was far from the business in her latter years.
According to Cox, Burrows “felt led by the Lord” to open a Bible store. When nobody came the first several days, Burrows said, “The devil’s not going to defeat me.” Soon the public began coming in to buy Bibles and other religious materials. Pastors became a big part of the clientele.
“It was all Christian-based materials, but mostly Bibles,” Cox said. “We sold a Bible nearly every day. We’d hear stories of people buying their first Bible here, special memories.
“It’s been a wonderful journey and we’ve met a lot of good Christian people.”
Cox’s first child was born in 1981 and the family “wanted me to work here two or three days a week. Then it became five or six days sometimes.”
Her daughter, Lana Johnson, and her son, Luke Cox, born in 1986, were raised in Faith Book Nook. “It was great having my mother and great-grandmother around,” Johnson said. “She was a really Godly woman. At 92, she would get on her knees to pray.
“To have the drive and calling and trust in God to start a business in 1954 …”
Johnson said Burrows’ first cash register was a cigar box decorated with wallpaper. Later, the store went to an adding machine with a hand crank before going to automated equipment.
“Before automated cash registers, I had to learn to count money back,” Johnson said. “I would play ball with my brother in the store but we never broke anything.”
She also remembers a “place in the back for sick kids. I tell everybody I’m retiring with 40 years experience after starting when I was 4 months old.” Johnson has gone on to a career as a physical therapist.
In the last year or so, Cox’s 13-year-old granddaughter, Emory, has been helping out in the store. A cousin of Emory’s, 4-year-old Layton, had been spending time in the store as well.
Cox, who retires after 40 years at Faith Book Nook, said Burrows “really had perseverance. She read every book that came in. It was a simple store that sold books and Bibles all these years. We also sold music, reading cards and jewelry. We serviced a lot of vacation Bible schools.
“One year we did 150 (VBS supplies),” Cox said. “Last year we did one. 1999 was our biggest year, but it’s kept dwindling.
“COVID was the final straw. In 2020, we closed in March. But I decided if box stores could be open, we could, too. We’re essential. We have the bread of life.”
Beyond the pandemic, Cox blames online sales for Faith Book Nook’s loss of business.
“It’s an internet thing,” she said, “all the online ordering.
“But that’s OK. I’m ready to retire. I’ve been here 40 years.”