Book lovers in the Twin Cities can tick off a list of favorite bookstores that have closed in recent memory. The Bookcase in Wayzata. The Hungry Mind (later called Ruminator). Baxter’s. True Colors (formerly called the Amazon Bookstore Cooperative). Borders.
Milkweed Editions, an independent publisher founded in 1980 in Minneapolis, is optimistic, though, that there’s still a sizable audience for “literary books,” hold-in-your-hand works, smelling of new paper and ink and filled with stories true and fiction.
Milkweed Books is expected to open in early July in the Open Book building on Washington Avenue S., which has been the publishing house’s home since the literary center opened in 2000. The 800-square-foot bookstore with 18-foot ceilings will share the first floor with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and the Connexion cafe. Patrons will enter from the street or through the cafe.
Publisher and CEO Daniel Slager knows it’s a risk, but it’s one he and his colleague are eager to take on.
“It’s not an easy business,” Slager said. “As with any new venture, is there some risk? Sure. There wouldn’t be any reward if there wasn’t any risk. But we’re up for it.”
Milkweed isn’t looking to make millions from the store.
“One of several goals for the store is that it be revenue-positive,” Slager said. “If it took money away from the publishing end, that would not be positive.”
Slager said the bookshop should increase the company’s presence in the neighborhood and the city and increase the audience for the kinds of books it publishes. Milkweed Editions puts out 18 to 20 titles each year. The store will carry books from local competitors Graywolf Press and Coffeehouse Press, as well as 50 to 100 other publishers. There’ll be new releases and more author appearances and readings in the Target Performance Hall on the second floor of the center.
Milkweed Books will have its own “logic,” Slager said.
“We will have a healthy inventory of literary books,” he said. “We’re not going to be selling business books, self-help books, travel books. We’re not going to try to be a general interest bookstore that satisfies everyone who wants books.”
The store won’t sell e-books, either, although all of Milkweed’s titles are also released as e-books.
There will also be a constantly changing gallery showing how books are made, he said. Although there will be employees and a full-time manager, publishing house staff will cycle through the store, too, to the benefit of both customers and staff.
At the American Booksellers Association convention this past winter, Slager said he saw a resurgence of independent bookstores nationwide. There already are more than a dozen in Minneapolis and St. Paul: Common Good Books, Micawber’s, Magers & Quinn, the Red Balloon, Wild Rumpus, Subtext Books, Once Upon a Crime, Moon Palace and more.
The old Ruminator bookstore had a three-level, 3,000-square-foot shop at Open Book for a time. Since then, the neighborhood has changed dramatically, said Joe Skifter, general manager of Open Book.
Now the neighborhood has the Guthrie Theater, MacPhail Center for Music, new apartment and condo complexes, restaurants, an Aloft hotel, Izzy’s Ice Cream just down the road and U.S. Bank Stadium a couple of blocks away.
Skifter said Open Book’s partners, neighbors and tenants create a terrific synergy together. Busloads of schoolchildren come to the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Hundreds of people take classes or attend events at the Loft Literary Center.
Open Book sees 14,000 to 15,000 people come through the doors each month — a total of about 175,000 in all of 2015 — and “we believe many of them are book lovers,” he said.
Slager said he expects the store to open “in the beginning of July, a soft opening,” followed by a grand opening in the fall and a busy holiday season.
“We are so excited about it,” Skifter said. “We can’t wait for opening day.”