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Even owner of Map Shop needs a map

Patrice Northrup is no newcomer; she's lived in Charlotte for 20 years. But of course, the owner of The Map Shop always has a map in her car and consults it before setting off someplace she's never been, especially new developments around Ballantyne and University City.

“There are new streets going in all the time,” she said.

Getting to know Charlotte after moving from Long Island “was hard, because the city is laid out like a spider web.

“Except for the very center of downtown, there are no parallel and perpendicular roads, and the roads change names,” Northrup said. “I don't think we ever lived anywhere (else) where you are driving along a road and suddenly it was a different road.”

Her favorite ever-changing street (heading west to east): Tyvola-Fairview-Sardis-Rama-Idlewild.

“We get a lot of newcomers” in the store, Northrup said. “We hear the same things. … Charlotte is a very confusing city to get around.”

The Map Shop, on East Morehead Street at South Kings Drive, deals in all things geography. Classroom maps, folding maps for Charlotte to Bratislava and Kuala Lumpur, collectors' maps, globes, travel books and map-themed gifts and toys. The store also has cartographers who draw folding maps and spiral-bound books of Charlotte and the surrounding area. They update these maps every six to 12 months. And they make tighter area maps for pizza-delivery companies, too.

The Map Shop frames and laminates maps and ships products sold on its Web site – www. – around the world.

Northrup, who used to draw maps for a civil engineer, bought the store in 1995 and relocated it from South Boulevard. She doesn't rely on GPS, though she and her husband, Ted, who also works at the shop, have it in one of their cars. GPS data is already at least a year old even when you buy it brand new, she said. The local maps her staff produces are more up-to-date because small updates are always being made, and the shop prints only small batches at one time. It gets mapping info from developers, utility companies, fire departments and county offices as well as from staffers in the field.

Lucky for Northrup, also an avid traveler whose proudest moment was bumping into travel writer Rick Steves in a small town in northern Italy, there's a map for wherever she wants to go within easy reach.