More than 12 years after Garrison Keillor opened Common Good Books, the St. Paul bookstore has a new owner.
St. Paul native Nick Ballas has bought the store at Snelling and Grand avenues in St. Paul and renamed it Next Chapter Booksellers. The transition will come with new signage and some minor interior changes, though business is expected to continue as usual.
“I think our customers should be relieved that they’re going to see the same faces, similar titles in the shop,” Ballas said in an interview Wednesday. “It’ll still be the same or a similar experience for them.”
Ballas, who grew up in St. Paul’s Como Park neighborhood, spent a few decades working for manufacturing companies in Asia before returning to St. Paul in 2016 to be closer to his children. As a longtime customer of independent bookstores including Common Good Books, he said he jumped at the chance to buy the store when he learned that it was for sale.
Keillor, the founding host of “A Prairie Home Companion” on Minnesota Public Radio, announced at the beginning of the year that he was selling Common Good Books, the largest independent bookstore in St. Paul. He told the Star Tribune that he was “hoping someone will take over the bookstore who has time to devote to it.”
MPR cut ties with Keillor in 2017 following allegations of inappropriate behavior toward a female co-worker. An MPR news investigation published in January 2018 reported that Keillor also wrote and posted an off-color limerick about a young woman employed at Common Good Books.
All of the store’s employees, some of whom have worked there since it opened at the corner of Selby and Western avenues in 2006, are planning to stay on, Ballas said.
Long-term, Ballas said he wants to host more events at the store and across the street at Macalester College. He also wants to boost the store’s online presence and sell more books through its website.
“We have the capability to do that today,” he said, “but we haven’t focused so much on it because we’re a store that really specializes in personalized service.”
Next Chapter’s grand opening hasn’t been scheduled, but will likely happen in May, Ballas said. In the meantime, members of the public are invited to visit the store for Independent Bookstore Day on April 27. Coffee and doughnuts will be served.