Frank Burleson to retire – but he won’t recline

Frank Burleson of Park Road Books.
Frank Burleson of Park Road Books.

Frank Burleson says he’s going to sit around a bit when he retires from Park Road Books Sunday. I don’t believe it.

For years, I’ve watched him in action behind tables groaning with new books – oh, here and there, at Queens University, at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, at Davidson College, at Johnson C. Smith University, at literary teas in Monroe, everywhere, actually – and you can tell: He’s not a man made for sitting.

Elbows in motion. He sells. He stacks. He tallies. Never slows. And never, never sits.

Burleson will be 67 in October. He’s been in the book business since 1974. In Charlotte, before Park Road Books, he worked for the former Bush Stationers, then for Park Road Books’ predecessor Little Professor, for a total of 37 years.

To celebrate Burleson’s retirement, you’re invited to a dessert party at Park Road Books Sunday from 1-3 p.m.

Burleson says he’s learned two things working with books and people:

One, don’t judge a book by its cover; and, two, don’t judge a customer by his looks.

“I’ve had one customer with a beard down to his waist, a black leather jacket and a biker wallet,” he says. “Nothing was off limits to him, his wife or his kids. They read from A-Z.”

Burleson’s looking more forward than backward. Sure, he’s going to catch up on his own reading. And, of course, there’s a list of things to do around the 80-year-old house he shares with his wife, Diane.

But what really excites him is having time to further explore the genealogy of the Burleson family.

“My family split in 1649,” he says. “One section went north and one went south.”

Burleson’s branch came south, to Stanly County, where he was born and raised.

“Every Burleson down there is my relative,” he says. “Isaac Burleson Sr. came from Maryland down through the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley. He’s the Burleson from Avery and McDowell counties. Isaac Jr. settled around the Albemarle area.”

Anybody famous?

“Mostly horse thieves, arsonists, rebellionists,” he says. “But one was secretary of the U.S. Postal Service, and a Burleson founded Baylor College in Texas.

“And I found a picture of a John Burleson who was commander of the Alamo. You should’ve seen my father-in-law’s face. He was dumbfounded to see Burlesons that proudly displayed!”

So is Burleson going to sit still to do this research?

“Actually, I’m looking forward to grabbing the car and the dog and photographing tombstones in Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas.”

Join the party

You’re invited to a dessert party to celebrate Frank Burleson’s retirement, 1-3 p.m. Sunday at Park Road Books, 3941 Park Road.