What to Expect at Park Road Books: Large selection of children’s and YA titles, friendly & helpful staff, author events, great gifts, Yola (the Bookstore Dog), a welcoming environment for browsing and interacting.
What to Expect at Va da Vie Gelato: Authentic homemade gelato and sorbet, ample seating, good selection of nut free gelato, fresh ingredients, friendly and welcoming environment.
What could sum up a better afternoon for kids and adults than feeding your soul with a good book and a scoop of luxurious gelato, while supporting local businesses at the same time? You can achieve this trifecta of goodness at Charlotte’s Park Road Shopping Center by visiting Charlotte’s oldest and most favorite bookstore, Park Road Books, and one of Charlotte’s newest dessert hotspots, Va da Vie Gelato. The entire Park Road corridor near Woodlawn and Montford is brimming with activity for young and old, and with recent renovations and upgrades to the centrally located Park Road Shopping Center, there’s an undeniable siren call for locals to flock to this area.
Since opening in 1977, Park Road Books has had only two owners and is run by a dedicated, knowledgeable, and steadfast staff who have watched generations of families come through the store. Sherri Smith, the Children’s Book Buyer, has been at Park Road Books for over twenty years and personally curates the five to ten thousand children’s titles the store has on hand at any given time. Sherri’s expertise, recommendations, and willingness to help is unparalleled and would be impossible to duplicate online or otherwise.
After visiting Park Road Books, walk over to the little white building in the middle of the shopping center and indulge in Va da Vie Gelato. John and Wendy Paglia opened Va da Vie in May 2014 after years of planning. They aim to offer the Charlotte community handcrafted gelato and sorbet, devoid of preservatives and artificial ingredients. These artisans have taken dessert authenticity to the next level by making the daily selections fresh on site with only the best available ingredients. These ingredients have been carefully and purposefully curated locally through North Carolina farms and from veritable sources abroad (Sicilian pistachios and Italian hazelnuts). We could go on about all the steps Va da Vie takes to create a quality product, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating- once you sample, you’ll be a believer.
Sally Brewster, owner of Park Road Books, estimates that for every $10 dollars a customer spends in her store, $4.50, or 45%, stays local and furthermore, this percentage gets compounded as those dollars are reinvested back into the community. And in the case of Va da Vie, where many ingredients are sourced locally, the percentage reinvested may even be greater. The benefits of shopping local go beyond dollars and cents; a vibrant and diverse community depends on the vitality of local stores that offer accessibility to a variety of experiences and products. And in Park Road Shopping Center, we are fortunate to have venues such as Park Road Books and Va da Vie in such an easily accessible location where families can spend quality time together while supporting local businesses.
Good to Know Before You Go:
Park Road Books-
When you enter Park Road Books, the children’s titles are located at the very back of the store and are arranged by various categories, in a spacious layout, that invites you to stay a while and peruse. Author signings, school visits, and children’s events are held regularly with dates and times posted on their website, Facebook page, and in a handy pamphlet at the check-out kiosk. In addition, Sherri can help search for out of print books and special order any books not carried in the store; Sherri loves to talk books, so take advantage of her knowledge and passion and ask her for recommendations. Whether you’re shopping for school reading lists, personal reading lists, or gifts, the selection of books, games, and stationery will fulfill a plethora of needs.
And if these features are not enough to draw in the little ones, Yola, the Bookstore Dog (with her own Twitter account @YolaReads) is there to welcome visitors in between her naps.
Be sure to stop in on Saturday, March 14 for Suess-a-Thon, a celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday in conjunction with the National Education Association’s Read Across America literacy campaign. Check Park Road Books’ website for more information. .
Va da Vie Gelato-
There is seating inside the store and on days when the weather is cooperating, ample outdoor seating. The facility is clean, inviting, and modern and sampling with their eco-friendly spoons is encouraged. For those with nut allergy concerns, be sure to ask about ingredients before sampling; there is a large selection of nut-free selections but several flavors do include nuts. Va da Vie also offers at least one sorbet selection a day to accommodate those with lactose concerns. Each flavor is scooped individually with its own serving spoon to avoid cross contamination.
Park Road Shopping Center
4201 Park Road (intersection of Park Road and E. Woodlawn Rd)
Hours (Check websites for holiday closings):
Park Road Books: Mon-Fri 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. - 6p.m.; Sun.: 11 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Va da Vie Gelato: Closed Mondays; Tue-Sun 11:30 a.m. - 8pm (until 8:30ish on weekends; closing time may be extended based on activity)
Nearby Venues to Visit:
Blackhawk Hardware and Garden-Grab a free bag of popcorn and meander with your kids, you’ll be served with a dose of nostalgia and while discovering neat things you need and want for your home.
BikeSource – A great selection of kids and adult bikes, they offer products, accessories, service and perhaps most valuably, expertise.
Park Road Soda Shoppe- A soda shop in the original sense of the word—hot dogs, hand patted burgers, great milk shakes and specialty drinks, salads, sandwiches, all wrapped up in a family friendly atmosphere.
Fuel Pizza-Stop by Fuel Pizza and grab a slice. Then, work it off by walking over to some of the other great spots in the shopping center.
Cantina 1511-A great place to stop for a family meal- even the pickiest of eaters won’t be able to resist the chips and salsa.
Suarez Bakery-A little something for everyone, Suarez Bakery specializes in scratch-made breads, brownies & bars, cakes & cupcakes, danish & doughnuts, pastries & pies, and specialty coffees.
Gi Hallmark shares local people and places of interest for kids & moms in her blog “The Loop,” and is creator of thechildrensblog.com. Gi is a freelance writer and mother of two lovely girls. For more information about thechildrensblog.com, follow Gi on Twitter @thechildrnsblog.