The mystery has been solved. Once Upon a Crime, Minneapolis' beloved basement bookseller, will continue under new ownership.
One husband-wife team will hand the operation to another when Dennis Abraham and Meg King-Abraham take over April 1 — the 29th anniversary of the bookshop devoted to mystery novels.
Gary Shulze, 66, and Pat Frovarp, 75, caused anxiety among longtime customers when they decided to retire and put the store on the market last July. They considered 12 potential suitors, Shulze said, but chose the Abrahams when they saw how passionate the family was about the little shop at 604 W. 26th St., near Lyndale Avenue.
"They seemed the most excited about the idea," Shulze said. "Plus their daughter is young, she can carry the store for many years."
Dennis Abraham first visited the shop last year when he was looking for one of Craig Johnson's "Longmire" novels, his daughter Devin Abraham, 24, said. When he later learned that the business was for sale, he decided to buy that too, she said.
"We're all mystery lovers," Devin said, adding that she read four mystery books last week. She will operate the store for her parents: Meg, who is an elementary technology teacher in St. Paul, and Dennis, an operations manager at Medtronic.
The Abrahams will be the fourth owners of the shop. They say they don't plan on changing much, except to build an online presence for Once Upon a Crime — a facet of modern bookselling the current owners avoided. "It's amazing we even do e-mail," Shulze said.
While he and Frovarp still love mystery novels, the tedium of running a bookstore has taken a toll, he said.
They will help "wean" the new owners in the coming weeks.
While a new chapter in the mystery store's tale will begin soon, the last chapter was more a romance.
Shulze met Frovarp at the bookshop, where she worked. The two then courted, bought the shop in 2002 from previous owner Steve Stilwell and were married there five years later.
They and their popular team member Shamus, an 8-year-old border collie mix, have no concrete plans for retirement other than a visit to New York, where they won a Raven Award in 2011 from the Mystery Writers of America, the industry's top honor for booksellers. They plan to spend time together and focus on Shulze's health; he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2007.
"We're old dogs," Shulze said. "It's the best job either of us have had."
Barry Lytton is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.