It's the little bookstore that could, the mystery bookstore just six steps down from street level, the one with the, um, dead body on the sign outside. Once Upon a Crime Bookstore, owned by Gary Shulze and Pat Frovarp, who met there, got married there, and bought the place, is going on the market.
"It's been a great 13 years, and we will miss it, but too many factors (age and health concerns primary) are telling us it's time to retire," said Shulze, who has been battling cancer for several years.
In 2011, the store was awarded the Raven Award by the Mystery Writers of America--the top honor for non-authors given at the annual Edgar Awards. The bookstore, at 604 W. 26th St., has long had a reputation as being a great supporter of local writers, both of mysteries and other fiction. Nationally known local mystery writers Laura Childs, William Kent Krueger, David Housewright, Brian Freeman and others hold their book-launch parties there. Big names in mystery fiction come through town and hold readings and signings there.
"They're a class act," Plymouth mystery writer Gerry Schmitt, better known by her pen name of Laura Childs, told the Star Tribune at the time. "They carry your books; they carry your back list; they do publicity; they host launch parties and events. They're phenomenal."
The couple has owned the store since 2002, when they bought it from Steve Stilwell. They've kept it welcoming, well-stocked (Shulze estimates they have about 30,000 titles), low-key and low-tech. Shulze fell ill with leukemia in 2007, and was in the hospital for nearly three months, leaving Frovarp to run the store alone. It was, she said, beyond stressful. "I didn't know if I was on foot or on horseback. But I just kept going." And people, she said, started showing up -- authors, customers, publishers' reps -- to help.
"They restocked shelves, ran the till, shoveled snow," she said. "The mystery community is so incredible."
And the mystery bookstore community too.