Gary Shulze, who knew just about everything there is to know about local writers, mystery writers and the wonderful, delicate art of selling books, died Wednesday afternoon. Shulze, 66, ran Once Upon a Crime Bookstore for nearly 14 years with his wife, Pat Frovarp. They sold the store last month because of Shulze’s declining health. He had been diagnosed with leukemia in 2007, and it returned two years ago.
“He was a kind man, and he would listen to you, even when things were busy,” said Shulze’s longtime friend, mystery writer Carl Brookins. “He’d give you his full attention. He was a vast reader. He read all kinds of things, mostly in the mystery and crime fiction area, but he also read other literature. He was not wedded to a particular genre or subgenre.”
The store at 604 W. 26th St. in Minneapolis is known by mystery writers and readers all over the country, famous for hosting events, tracking down out-of-print and special-order books, and giving writers enthusiastic support. It has been a regular stop for writers on tour, including John Connolly, John Lescroart, Brad Taylor, William Kent Krueger, Laura Childs, Brian Freeman and the late Vince Flynn.
“Gary loved books, he loved Pat and he loved Once Upon a Crime,” said mystery writer Jessie Chandler. “His motto was ‘One more book never hurts.’ ”
Jon Jordan, publisher of Milwaukee-based Crimespree magazine, visited the bookstore whenever he came to the Twin Cities. “No matter how much or how little we spent, Gary would always insist on giving us books, because he loved reading them so much he wanted to share them,” Jordan said. “I had to be careful when I called him, because a quick question would turn into three hours of us talking about books and authors. One of the most passionate people I’ve ever known.”
In 2011, the store was awarded the Raven Award by the Mystery Writers of America — the top award for bookstores, libraries, editors and other lovers of mysteries.
Shulze and Frovarp met years ago at the bookstore, where Frovarp worked a couple of days a week for the previous owner, Steve Stilwell, and where Shulze liked to hang around, because he collected first editions and loved books.
Shulze and Frovarp bought the store on Aug. 1, 2002, and five years later, on that date, they were married in the store. They wore their standard uniform of white T-shirts and black jeans. Shulze’s T-shirt read “Shop Locally.” Frovarp carried pink roses. They said their vows standing between a giant cardboard revolver that hung on the wall and mock crime tape that bisected the back doorway.
Shulze also played tuba in the Calhoun-Isles Community Band. Like his reading interests, his music interests were eclectic, Brookins said. “He played some pretty funny solos with that tuba,” he said.
Memorial plans are pending.