It’s a phrase Candace Walker says she hears often in reference to her new wine bar-meets-bookstore, the Vibrary: “Wow, this doesn’t even look like Stone Mountain.” She takes it as a compliment, as the Vibrary, which opened this summer on Main Street, is drawing people to the historic village 20 miles east of Atlanta for wine and books, and is part of a changing tide in businesses opening there.
Walker first moved to Stone Mountain in middle school, growing up not far from Main Street and the village. By day, Walker works in forensics for a local police department and does side gigs as a voice actor for e-learning companies and radio. But she says she felt compelled to open a business in downtown Stone Mountain.
“It was important for me to be able to give back to the community I grew up in.”
Walker originally conceived of the idea for the Vibrary with a business partner who ended up backing out for personal reasons. After speaking with several local business owners about what was needed in the village, Walker says she decided to open the Vibrary on her own, combining her favorite things in a wine bar and bookstore.
“People really wanted something that was more elevated, comfortable, small plates, kind of like a wine speakeasy feel,” she says. “I remember what [Stone Mountain Village] looked like when I was younger and saw the decline of it when I was coming back from college, and then I saw that it was actually being revitalized.”
According to a 2020 Curbed Atlanta article, Stone Mountain Village had an estimated 60 to 70 percent vacancy rate just over five years ago. Since 2016, multiple businesses have opened on or around Main Street, including coffee shop Gilly Brew Bar, Stoned Pizza Kitchen, Pi-Bytes, and Outrun Brewing Company.
Accented with bright jewel tones throughout, the Vibrary offers multiple seating options inside between tables, plush couches, and an eight-seat bar. Bistro tables are topped with books for browsing, with more books available for purchase on nearby shelves. A signature scent greets people as they walk through the door, concocted by Walker and local candle company This Little Light. The space, Walker says, is meant to be relaxing and homey.
“I just wanted people to be able to get away from the crazy madness of the outside world and the inundation of bad news, to be able to come and relax.”
As a first-time business owner, Walker is working through the hiccups that come with running and owning a bar and retail shop. This includes determining the types of wines served at the Vibrary. Currently, the menu focuses on wines Walker wants and likes to drink, which always features four reds, four whites, and three sparkling wines.
“It’s good confirmation that my palate is diverse enough that most of the wines have been selling out, and people really like it when you educate them on what kind of wines they are.”
Most wines offered at the Vibrary are organic and low-intervention, are biodynamically harvested, and come from wine makers using certified sustainable practices. Walker first tried organic wine during the pandemic last year and, as someone with asthma, says she could taste and feel a difference. While the science behind the benefits of drinking natural wine is still unclear, some evidence suggests wines containing sulfites and histamines can trigger symptoms in asthmatics.
To accompany the wine, Walker also serves light snacks on charcuterie boards. Lacking a full kitchen, Walker puts as much care into the details for each board as she does the wine, especially when it comes to the vegan charcuterie board. While she eats meat, Walker enjoys the bites of smoked mushrooms, vegan ham, and vegan cheeses emulating cheddar and gouda found on this particular board.
Of equal importance to Walker are the books and the book signings at the Vibrary. She typically carries uplifting titles across multiple genres prominently featuring Black or people of color protagonists. Three books signings have already taken place since August. More are in the works, too, with the intimate setting at the Vibrary lending itself nicely to author readings.
The Vibrary, a Black-owned business, resides within a building which may once have housed a Confederate museum. It’s also less than a mile from Stone Mountain Park and the monument on the north face of the granite rock depicting images of the Confederacy’s leaders: Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson.
“People have come in and said ‘My parents are buried in the Confederate graveyard down the street and they had different thoughts about things, and we’re really glad you’re here,’” says Walker of these encounters.
Although jarring to hear such comments, Walker says most of the interactions have been positive and affirming.
“If people are led to say things like that to affirm and it’s positive, then bring it on, I love it. I know there may be people here or there who don’t think the idea [for the Vibrary] is great or may not want me there, but I don’t dwell on things like that.”
Instead, Walker says she chooses to focus on the feedback she’s receiving from people in the community, many of whom have become regulars (and even some who make the drive to Stone Mountain just to come to the Vibrary.)
“I get the feeling I will be there as long as I feel like I’m supposed to be there,” Walker adds. “Then, times that by infinity, because I would love to be a longstanding business in the village operating amongst other great businesses.”
970 Main Street, Stone Mountain. thevibrary.co.
Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Cashless.
Lia Picard is an Atlanta-based freelance writer covering a broad range of food and culture topics with a particular fondness for highlighting people who grow, cook, and serve food. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Atlanta magazine, Eater Atlanta, and Thrillist. When she’s not writing, Lia is introducing her toddler to Atlanta’s best treats.