The 'happy place' for used books
Dreamalot Books emerging as a go-to hot spot in Moncks Corner
By Ralph Mancini
The Berkley Independent
Wednesday, November 9, 2022
After an 18-year run in Goose Creek and unforeseen challenges presented by COVID-19,
Dreamalot Books has gradually - but decidedly - gained a steady foothold in the Moncks Corner
community as a welcoming haven of second-hand books for both area bibliophiles and those
traveling in from Myrtle Beach and beyond to peruse the shop's vast inventory at 1013 Old
The woman behind the retail shop's success and inevitable twists and turns over
the past 23 years is Cherry Collins, a self-described "book addict," who would often resort to
reading the backs of cereal boxes as a child in the absence of a paperback she could lose
"I skipped kindergarten, back then it wasn't required because by the time
I went to the first grade, I was reading on a fourth-grade level," began the Lenoir, North
Carolina native. "My dad said that I picked up a book and I never put one down. Needless to
say, he was not surprised I opened a bookstore."
What sets Dreamalot Books apart from
other major book shops in the Lowcountry is the sense of familiarity regular clientele shares
with Collins - commonly referred to as Miss Cherry - whose large indoor reservoir of more than
100,000 publications has maintained a quaintness that's usually only found in much smaller
Dreamalot's maze-like layout allows patrons to set off on their own
personal journeys during which they may spend upwards of an hour combing through assorted
categories of children's books, romance novels, biographies and collector's items that most
adults haven't read since they were carrying a lunchbox to elementary school.
run out of time while scouring the seemingly boundless inventory will usually rush back the
next day or later that same week to complete their quest for published treasures that typically
go for anywhere from one to five dollars.
Miss Cherry's ample hodgepodge of books are the
result of numerous donations and trade-ins that keeps the in-store supply constantly circulating.
But while Miss Cherry has her hands full with paying the bills (rent, general overhead,
etc.) and keeping her stock organized, she also serves the greater purpose of assisting customers
by informing them of what's available and even matching her store items with the literary tastes
of a certain individual.
"It's not always about the money, it's more about getting the
book where it needs to go, the person it needs to go to. That one was meant to go to her," she
says while checking out a happy consumer who had just purchased an old, hard-to-find copy of
"Dick and Jane."
Her personal, heartfelt relationship with books permeates the entire
showroom, which attracts all types, including young, old, homeless folks and autistic individuals
who've cultivated a special liking to Dreamalot.
"You get that used-bookstore feel, the
home feel. You can't get that in a new store. Everybody feels really comfortable in here. We
have a lot of autistic children who come in. Autistic children, you know, are hard to take
shopping. They don't do well in stores. In here, the only problem I've ever had with autistic
children is getting them to leave," she quips.
"They like it; they like that there's a
maze through the shelves [and] that's it's closer and you can't get a crowd of people around you.
There are treasures to find. You can come in and be here all day and not see all of the treasures
that are hiding in the nooks and crannies - and it constantly changes. You never know what you're
going to find."
The fact that the Lowcountry's baroness of fine books deals exclusively
with low-priced used copy doesn't compel her to announce sales and/or specials, which in this
economy, she observes, has become essential for those struggling with car dues, home/education
expenses and sundry forms of debt.
However, the real value presented by her treasure trove
of books, according to Miss Cherry, is the "sanity" they offer to folks saddled with real-world
problems who sometimes need an escape from the mundane.
Dreamalot also has a mini cafe'
rest area where people can sit and stay awhile while thumbing through their selected books or
magazines of interest.
Recently, Collins has begun partnering with neighborhood "food
fairies," who regularly drop in and drop off boxes of edibles and other items for the homeless.
Yet all the hospitality and benevolence in the world doesn't pay the light bill, and so to
counter the rising costs of rent, utilities and other related expenses, the 23-year businesswoman
has opted to carry goods other than books, such as toys, holiday decorations, DVDs, board games
and a wide array of figurines.
What has truly caught fire at Dreamalot since moving to
Moncks Corner is a growing allotment of puzzles, which has brought in new customers.
Financial demands aren't the only hurdle Collins has had to grapple with in keeping the doors
open, though, as she's also negotiated her share of health concerns over the years, some of
which have landed her in the hospital. Those physical issues prompted the longtime store owner
to recruit Danielle Cutler Nabors as a business partner. The Pennsylvania-born mother of six,
in fact, chips in with a lot of the heavy lifting.
Nabors, herself a voracious reader,
enjoys listening to Collins dispense her encyclopedic knowledge as it pertains to authors and
When rattling off a list of writers she holds in high regard, Miss
Cherry spoke glowingly of French novelist Jules Verne of "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea"
fame, as she deemed him "the last author who wrote anything original."
lauded Simon Winchester - who counts "The Professor and the Madman" as his most heralded work -
as an "awesome" writer with a unique style.
Conversely, Collins had no qualms critiquing
Stephen King's more recent literary productions, including "Under the Dome," since the
science-fiction master will sometimes regurgitate old scripts he previoulsy submitted for "The
Twilight Zone" to generate content for his books - with the end result of having a fizzling
Miss Cherry's unfiltered insight on books and the people who write them is worth
the price of admission for her legions of recurring customers, including "Penny," who paid the
bookstore a visit toward the end of The Berkeley Independent's in-person interview.
is my happy place," said the enthusiastic book connoisseur. "I love books, I love looking for
them and finding things here that I've been looking for for a long time - it's quite exciting.
This is just a great, great place."