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Alexandria's Cherry Street Books will soon have a new owner

Starting in May, Kathleen Pohlig will pass the torch to Emily Regnier, owner of Ella's Salon.

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Kathleen Pohlig enjoys a poolside book while on vacation as Emily Regnier contrasts Pohlig with a book in a snowbank.
Contributed photo
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ALEXANDRIA — Cherry Street Books will begin a new chapter on May 1 when current owner Kathleen Pohlig turns the business over to Emily Regnier, owner of Ella's Salon, to start her journey of retirement.

"The bookstore is a stimulating place to be, with something surprising or unexpected happening every day," said Pohlig.

Pohlig first opened the book store on June 23, 2007, after her son-in-law, Shawn Reilly, planted the inspiration.

"I’ve always loved independent bookstores, each with their own personality and a specially curated selection of books to suit the neighborhood or community," said Pohlig.

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Cherry Street Books is located at 503 Broadway Street in Alexandria.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

Cherry Street comes from Pohlig's sister's residence in New York. She thought the name sounded friendly and cozy, like it had come from a novel.

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While there is no actual cherry Street in Alexandria, Pohlig joked with former mayor Dan Ness to rename Broadway to Cherry Street.

"He just smiled and said he’d have to bring that up with the city council. I guess they tabled the idea and haven’t acted on it yet," Pohlig added with a smile emoji via email.

Pohlig, who recently turned 74, says she decided to sell the store as it's time to retire, and she doesn't have the energy to run the store anymore. She and her husband, Bruce, love to travel and it was a strain for employees to keep up with the extra tasks.

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Cherry Street Books' name comes from Kathleen Pohlig's sister's New York residence.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

On her last day, April 30, the store will celebrate Independent Bookstore Day. The next day the store will be turned over to Regnier.

"My dream job in retirement was to work at Cherry Street. That was at least 20 years down the road for me," said Regnier. "When I walk into the book store, I feel at peace, and a sense of calming comes over me."

Regnier said she hinted at purchasing Cherry Street to Pohlig last summer but never thought the process would begin so soon.

"I am very honored that Kathleen chose me to take over the store. When she asked me late this fall, I was a bit shocked as I thought she had at least five more years until she would retire," said Regnier. "My husband, Paul, knew this was something I was passionate about, so as soon as he said yes, it was a done deal."

Pohlig says she will miss her staff and chatting with customers about books they have read and helping them find another book to enjoy. But she expects to stop in regularly. She is looking forward to spending time on her quilting projects, time with family and catching up on vacations postponed due to COVID-19.

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Regnier says she is excited to take on this new venture, especially meeting new customers and working with a talented female crew.

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A customer takes time to read in the sitting area at Cherry Street Books.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

When asked about the challenges of competing with online retailers like Amazon and alternate ways to read books like e-readers, Regnier says she looks forward to the competition.

"There is always going to be competition. I think that is good, though. It keeps you on your toes and makes you want to do better," said Regnier. "You can’t get the personal touch online."

Pohlig echoed similar sentiments saying there is no substitute for the experience of walking into a bookstore. She added that buying from Amazon does nothing for the local economy, which she said many have recognized in recent years.

"It is really important to support local retail businesses if people want them to continue to exist. Every business in downtown Alexandria is an independent retailer; it would completely change the nature of the community if they all disappeared," said Pohlig.

Cherry Street will be Regnier and her husband's, Paul, second Alexandria business. They also own Ella's Salon. When asked how she plans to balance the two, she said she has a fantastic family.

"My husband runs the backside to both businesses. My parents are always there to help. And my three kids also have to help work. They are in charge of a lot of odd jobs and cleaning," said Regnier. "If they weren’t so great, it would never happen."

Pohlig says Regnier has already been spending time in the store with current staff, learning all she can and getting ready to take over.

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"Cherry Street will benefit from a new owner who is younger and who has more energy and new ideas," said Pohlig. "I am very excited that Emily will be taking over the store as I retire. She has been a friend and bookstore customer for years and is thrilled to begin this new adventure. I know she will bring creativity and energy to the business that will only make it better."

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Cherry Street Boks first opened its doors in 2007.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

Regnier says he has some minor changes in mind for the book store this summer — mostly cosmetic and inventory — but one thing that won't change is the name.

"I have big shoes to fill. Kathleen has done a wonderful job making Cherry Street what it is today. I hope I can make her proud, and I am honored to work alongside her during this purchase," said Regnier.

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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