Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Moon Palace Books - Minneapolis, MN

Moon Palace Books - Minneapolis, MN
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Moon Palace Books in the Longfellow neighborhood of south Minneapolis is the quintessential neighborhood, buy local, independent bookstore.  I think how nice it would be if I could step outside the front door of my residential area and walk a block or two and visit a bookstore.  If you live in this community that's exactly what you can do to enjoy a great bookstore experience.

This indie offers a great inventory of new and used books and believe me, it is absolutely packed with inventory in a smallish one-level space.  Customers who bring in used books are offered store discount on their next purchase.  Because of limited space though, they are particular about the books they will take.  They also benefit from customers who choose to simply donate their books to the store, a great benefit for any indie.  You'll find a few sidelines here but this is also limited due to space.  Greeting cards are one of the sidelines that does well here.  Those cards tie in quite nicely with Moon Palace's best time of year.  Business is very good here from November to January 1 and a card and book always make a great gift.

Jamie S. and Angela S. are the co-owners here and I like their vision.  Jamie defined themselves as a younger generation of owners who haven't been in the business for decades, enduring the many changes all retailers withstood.  He's hopeful that at some point in the future they may be able to move to a new location that will allow more space to accommodate more books (of course!) and make it easier to host author events.  That said, they are still able to host events and book clubs in the store.

As with many businesses, the first year can be challenging and that was the case for Moon Palace.  Just getting people in the door was trying, but now in their 3rd year they've turned the corner and have seen an increase in business.  They obviously have a strong local customer base but will also get visits from people outside of the neighborhood or the occasional traveler on their way to the nearby Minneapolis-St.Paul airport.

When you visit Moon Palace Books, you'll enjoy talking to Angela, Jamie, and Lukas, one of the booksellers.  They'll be able to give you lots of suggestions for a book and I could've talked to them forever about the books they like.  This is always one of my favorite things to do at a bookstore.  Pay a visit to the fine folks at Moon Palace Books and enjoy your time in a terrific neighborhood bookstore.  Good luck getting that experience at Amazon.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  Fourth Of July Creek, Smith Henderson.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Long Division, Kiese Laymon.  Moon Palace, Paul Auster.  The store gets its name from this book.  How could I visit here and NOT get this one?!

This beautiful mural is on the side of the store.  You can park directly in front of the store or in this side lot.  Or just walk over from your home!

Moon Palace events notice.  

Front window display.  

Great view looking through the store from the front entrance.  

A wonderful wall of bookshelves.  

The Twin Cities has a strong literary community and Moon Palace is located in a neighborhood with many authors nearby.  Kate DiCamillo, an excellent author of children's fiction, lives in Minneapolis.  

A few of the sidelines available.  

Pick up a greeting card to go with that book gift you'll get!  

A portion of the children's section.  

View from the back of the store looking toward the front.  

Lots of used books can be purchased here.  

This book aisle runs the entire length of the store.  

The books are organized with the new ones in the front half of the store and the used ones in the back half.  

Co-owners Jamie on the left and Angela in the center.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Subtext Bookstore - St. Paul, MN

Subtext Bookstore - St. Paul, MN
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If I were an urban-dweller in downtown St. Paul, MN, I would be all over this place.  A great space in a historical building in the heart of a bustling and energetic metropolitan area.  Man, I love locations like this one.  And if you need a latté you walk right across the street to one of my favorite regional coffee shops, Dunn Bros. Coffee.  But that latté might have to wait because once you visit Subtext Books you won't be in any hurry to leave.

Subtext Books has only been in its current location for a little over two months.  According to Sue Z., the owner, it has been a great move for a couple of reasons.  The rent at the previous location was raised drastically (does this sound familiar indie owners?), and the new location provides a much higher visibility for the store.  The previous location was a lower level space (get it?  SUB text?) so it wasn't visible to the casual passerby or the casual book browser.  The new street level location in St. Paul has changed all that.  This new location is not only bringing in a new customer base but the store has also retained its many loyal customers from the old location.  A win-win for this indie.  In addition to these customers, the store has some good tourist traffic which adds up to a solid business.

Subtext has been around for about 3 years and Sue is very knowledgeable about the business with many years of experience.  She started at a bookstore back in her 20s in Montana and here in the Cities she was at Common Good Books, just to name a couple.  In her 3 years, she's definitely seeing a trend in favor of independent bookstores and the buy local movement.  She and her staff are doing a fine job in the new space and it will continue to evolve over time.  The store has a good assortment of new and used books, and some carefully chosen sidelines all produced and created by local artists.  These include a unique line of greeting cards, jewelry, and handbags just to name a few.  Bring your used books in and receive store credit, always a great incentive for customers.  I think the history section here is particularly good, one of Sue's strengths.  Traffic in the store is increased by frequent author events and book clubs as well as the lunch time rush hour from all the folks who have offices in the downtown area.  Another thing I love about this place?  LOTS of comfortable seating!  This makes it so easy to take your time in a bookstore.

I think Subtext Books is lined up for a nice, long run in the bookstore business.  A knowledgeable, friendly owner, a great selection of books, frequent events, and a very advantageous location.  If you're in downtown St. Paul and haven't checked this place out yet, hop to it.  Or be a tourist like me and enjoy a great experience at a fantastic bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Us, David Nicholls.  Couple married for 20+ years finds their marriage on the rocks but have already committed to taking their moody 17 year old son on a European vacation.  Will this save the marriage and family harmony?  I liked this one, didn't love it.

CURRENTLY READING:  Fourth Of July Creek, Smith Henderson.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Destiny Of The Republic, Candice Millard.

Enter here into a short hallway, then turn right into the bookstore.  

Great bargains just outside the store.  

View looking into the store from the entrance.  Keep in mind that many of these pictures will look different as Sue and her staff continue to redesign the interior.  

Just inside the front door you'll find a nice section of regional and local interests.  

Some of the staff picks.  

I really like this area.  

More local interests.  

All those comfy seats will probably be taken so you might have to settle for this one!  

Dog accessories.  

Some unique and original greeting cards can be found here.  

What?  More places to sit?  WOO HOO!  Bring your book club in.  

Looking from the back of the store toward the front.  

A list of upcoming events.  

A gentlemen named Ernest is creating unique jewelry available here.  

With Sue, the fine owner of Subtext Bookstore.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Cherry Street Books - Alexandria, MN

Cherry Street Books - Alexandria, MN

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When you visit Cherry Street Books in Alexandria, MN, don't go to Cherry Street.  You won't find it.  Heck, I don't even know if there is a Cherry St. in Alexandria.  So where is it?  On Broadway St. of course!  Naturally, I was confused but Kathleen P., the owner, straightened me out.  She's the founder of this wonderful indie and at one time her sister lived in a town in a house that was on Cherry St.  Kathleen thought the name sounded bright and happy and thought it would be a good name for her bookstore.  Like the name of a store you might read about in a book, for example.  It works!  It's a great name for this indie in west central Minnesota.

If there were beauty pageants for bookstores, Cherry Street Books would be considered a very attractive contestant.  Kathleen has done a great job with both the exterior and interior of this store which lends itself to a very comfortable atmosphere.  I think the location is great, a corner building on the busiest street through town.  This location makes it very visible and accessible.  You can easily park on the street or in a free lot behind the store.  Cherry Street Books hosts frequent author events in the store and has a great space to do so.  The sidelines are an important part of the business with some of the best including games, journals, and jigsaw puzzles, especially for kids, just to name a few.  There are definitely some unique and interesting games you can get here that are difficult to get elsewhere.  Kathleen works to make this one of the store's specialities.

Kathleen did not hesitate to tell me that tourists are a vital part of the success here, especially during the summers.  However, she also stated that local customers are continuing to show increasing support for the store.  It's also a hopeful sign that Kathleen can see a growing trend in support of independent bookstores, an opinion shared with me by other bookstore owners.

Kathleen has a a great set-up here because not only does she get to spend time in a bookstore, she also gets to spend time with her daughter Christine and a granddaughter who helps out at the store.  I can't imagine a better work place!  I enjoyed talking to Kathleen and Christine during my visit and like every other indie, I could've spent hours talking about books with them.

Ok, so the tourists are all over this place.  Great.  Hey citizens of Alexandria, now it's time for you to step-up your support as well.  If you haven't been here yet, it's time.  You'll have a great experience at this terrific local bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Old Filth, Jane Gardham.  Didn't.  This British author gets a lot of positive review from many readers and lots of people really like this book but her style just didn't fit for me.  Just couldn't get into it.

CURRENTLY READING:  Us, David Nicholls.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Neither Wolf Nor Dog, Kent Nerburn.  The Charm School, Nelson DeMille.

The side street view.  

Another exterior view from Broadway St.  

One of the front window displays.  

Looking to the right of the store from the entrance.  

Looking straight through the store from the front entrance.  Discerning readers may recognize the celebrity searching for a good book.  Yes, that's my mom.  

Looking to the left from the front entrance.  Some great games can be found on this table.  

A nice display of regional interests and authors.  

There are many varieties of socks here.  These are just a few of them.  

A nice staff picks display.  Notice the signs at the top of the shelf.  They're like small street signs, keeping the theme with the name of the store, Cherry Street Books.  

This area is in the center of the store, a great place to try out a book.  

If you're on a budget, find this section.  

More socks.  

A portion of the children's section.  

A great opportunity to bring families into the store.  Everyone should do something like this if they can.  

View from the rear of the store looking toward the front.  

The bathroom at this indie is so nice you won't want to leave!

If you look above the bookshelves you'll see some nice art work.  

With Kathleen on the left and Christine in the center, thanks for a great visit.