Dan Odegard transformed St. Paul’s Grand Avenue with an iconic bookstore and left his print on many authors and local book people.

He championed words and the people behind them and made a career of creating an unbreakable bond between reader and author.

In January 2010, Odegard learned he had multiple myeloma (plasma cancer). He died March 31 at his home in St. Paul. He was 69.

Walking into Odegard’s home, one would never have believed he had owned several Twin Cities bookstores, said Tib Shaw, his partner of 10 years.

“When I first went in, I was floored because it was not filled with books,” Shaw said. “I fully expected to walk … into wall-to-wall bookcases.”

Instead, Odegard kept a few bookcases with books that were very meaningful to him.

Odegard would say he was a “peddler, I peddled books.”

“And he loved them and did it beautifully,” Shaw added.

Odegard’s tale in the Twin Cities began in 1978, when he and his ex-wife, Michele Cromer-Poire, opened Odegard Books on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue. After their divorce, he opened a bookstore in Calhoun Square in Minneapolis, where Kitchen Window is now located.

Stu Abraham, a friend and book salesman, started selling books to Odegard in 1978, a few months after the bookstore opened in St. Paul. During that time, independent bookstores were heavily connected with local publishers and writers.

Local author John Rosengren didn’t know Odegard personally but knew of his name and legacy.

“He championed [independent bookstores],” Rosengren said. “With his passing, we are reminded of all the independent bookstores that have also passed.”

In 1991 Odegard opened what was then the largest bookstore in Minnesota — a 16,000-square-foot shop in Centennial Lakes Plaza in Edina.

He eventually sold the stores but continued to be a well-known name within the local literary scene.

“He had some great successes and some difficulties too … he was a class act,” Abraham said.

Odegard started Prodigal Publishing, ran his own literary agency and was head of the trade publishing program at Hazelden Publishing. He was also involved in several publishing and writing consultant groups.

In their spare time, Odegard and Shaw took mini road trips in search of “good pie.” It wasn’t really dessert that fueled their trips, but the company.

“It just became our reason for a road trip, but the pie didn’t really matter at all. It was the trip,” Shaw said.

Shaw said Odegard was quiet, gentle and bookish — no pun intended.

“I don’t think he likes to speak, but he got up to speak” in front of about 100 people at a fundraiser his friends hosted in 2010, he said.

Even after his cancer diagnosis, he remained kind and loving, Shaw said, adding, “There was a tremendous acceptance.”

David Unowsky, who owned Hungry Mind Bookstore a few blocks away from Odegard’s in St. Paul, said he always saw Odegard as a colleague, not a competitor.

“A good part of his legacy is the people who worked for him and today are still important factors in the world of literature, and bookselling and publishing,” Unowsky said. “He’s not going to be forgotten for a long time.”

In addition to Tib Shaw, Odegard is survived by a son, Peter Poire-Odegard; a daughter, Zoe Odegard, and two stepdaughters, Sophie and Kate Wozniak. A memorial service is planned for May. Information will be posted on the Dan Odegard CaringBridge website.

 

Twitter: @KarenAnelZamora