Thursday, March 28, 2019

Cream & Amber - Hopkins, MN

Cream & Amber, Hopkins, MN
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Usually when I do a write-up about a bookstore visit, I'll include a brief history of the business and how things have been going over the years.  Unfortunately, I can't do that for Cream & Amber in Hopkins.  The best I can do is tell you a bit about their ONE WEEK history and then a crystal ball projection of their bright future.  I've excitedly been following this store's evolution for several months before its opening and the fun thing has been seeing all the before pictures (sonograms?) and then coming to the store and seeing the incredible transformation that has taken place.  It took a LOT of work to pull this off and as Katie, one of the co-owners told me, they were going for small and cozy.  That is indeed the perfect description of this space along with down right beautiful.  This store gives off a wonderful vibe.

So, for one week things are going very well and ALREADY there are regular customers.  They offer new and used books with both mixed in together on the shelves.  They'll only take used books from customers on designated days so I encourage book-lovers in Hopkins to watch for these announcements.  You can enjoy coffee, beer, wine, and maybe a light lunch from the cafe.  Katie told me they're considering a "beer for wine-drinkers" event, a great idea to bring people into the store.  There are two medium-sized rooms in the back to allow for cafe overflow and meeting space for groups.  One of my favorite things here is that even though this is a small space, it feels perfectly comfortable to linger and browse without that feeling of being shadowed by a staffer.  There are many places and rooms to sit in and sample a book without feeling rushed or being in the way of others.

I didn't sample anything from the cafe but there can be no better recommendation than when a local customer met me before entering and said the coffee was outstanding.  I'd say this bodes well.  Nicely done Cream & Amber.

Co-owners Kacey and Katie are off to a great start and are rightly very enthusiastic about Cream & Amber.  Congratulations to them and Hopkins for this wonderful new business.  Now, Hopkinsites (Hopkinsonians?  Hopkinsters?), it's up to you.  This place is awesome and you finally have a bookstore AND a wonderful cafe in a beautiful space.  Check it out and have a great experience.  This is only the beginning of great things for Cream & Amber.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Natchez Burning, Greg Iles.  This is the first book in a trilogy about a community's battle during the 1960s civil rights era that resonates into present day.  A clearly defined story between good and evil and the complicated issue between the races.  A violent portrayal of violent times.  A work of fiction that certainly contains threads of real events. This is a big book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Bone Tree, Greg Iles.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Women Who Dig: Farming, Feminism, and The Fight To Feed The World, Trina Moyles.

A good sign indeed.  

Another exterior view.  

A great sentiment shared by many indies and their patrons.  

An attractive display window.  

View looking into the store from the main entrance.  Habitual readers may recognize the celebrity on the right.  Yes, that's my mom.  

Looking to the right from the main entrance.  

Straight ahead is a portion of the cafe.  Your coffee and beer await.  

Current offerings in the cafe.  

A happy customer enjoying a seat in the sun.  

Neatly organized front table display.  

All of the shelving and books displayed look super.  

Another view of the cafe area.  

You'll need this tote for the books you'll be buying.  

Walk straight past the cafe counter and enter this room.  Great for trying a book or a latte.  

Go to the right from the room pictured above and you'll be in this room.  Great for groups.  

Another view of the room above.  

Reserve the community room for your group.  

Overview of the bookstore from the back looking toward the front entrance.  

With Katie on the left and Kacey in the center, the fine co-owners at Cream & Amber.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Milkweed Books - Minneapolis, MN

Milkweed Books, Minneapolis, MN
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Milkweed Books is located in a large, old building in downtown Minneapolis and is part of a much larger enterprise called, Open Book.  Open Book is a non-profit and under its business umbrella is everything a book lover could want.  Most bookstores offer sidelines but in this building you go to the store that stocks greeting cards, tote bags, and other items.  Some bookstores have cafes and in this building you go to the large open space that houses the cafe, conveniently located next to the bookstore.  In this multi-level building you'll also find spaces to host events, rooms for workshops and classes, offices, the Milkweed Editions publishing company, and more.  If you need to reserve a space for an event, Open Book can do that for you.  Basically, think of this as a bookstore with lots of different business spaces for specific purposes.  And within all of this, you'll find a terrific bookstore with a great inventory and, on the day of my visit, two wonderful young booksellers who made my visit enjoyable, engaging, and a fun bookstore experience.

Milkweed Books is a little over two years old and things are going very well with the business showing good growth during this time.  This well-curated store offers an excellent breadth of inventory with many books published by small presses, like Milkweed Editions, for example.  I've been in indies like this one and really enjoy seeing so many books that I'm unfamiliar with from small independent presses.  The store has some great options for hosting events right in the building.  Store manager Hans W., does a great job of getting the stores' name out there by offering a pop-up store at the weekly farmer's market held year round.  When classes or workshops are held in the building to discuss a particular book, Milkweed Books is the store that provides the books.

Always best of all along my journey are the terrific people I'm fortunate to meet.  If you look up in the dictionary, "friendly, kind, intelligent, and darn nice booksellers," you'll see pictures of Allison and Sophie.  Clearly, somebody at Open Book knows how to staff a bookstore with the right people.

This building is located in the shadow of U. S. Bank Stadium, home of the Vikings.  The next time you go see the Vikings and they're taking it on the chin, stop in and see Milkweed Books.  It will be the salve to ease your pain and relieve your stress.  Don't miss this super bookstore in downtown Minneapolis.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The President's Hat, Antoine Laurain.  French president Fran├žois Mitterrand forgets his hat in a local cafe.  The person who finds it notices the mistake too late to get it back to the president so keeps it for himself.  This begins the journey of the hat that passes from person to person and changes the fortunes of all who temporarily own it.  A short, very readable and enjoyable book.  Recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Natchez Burning, Greg Iles.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  An American Marriage, Tayari Jones.  Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer.  

This is the Open Book building.  The main entrance to the building is underneath the marquee.  The entrance to the bookstore is just beyond that.  

All things books can be found here.  

Lots of front window display space.  

This is the exterior entrance to Milkweed Books.  You can also reach it by entering the main entrance of the building and walking through the cafe and to the right.  

Looking straight into the store from the street entrance.  

Looking to the left from the main entrance.  If you proceed in this direction, you'll enter the coffee shop conveniently located adjacent to the bookstore space.  

Front table display with a few of the staff recommendations.  

Always ask about gift cards at any indie.  

If you're a regular at Milkweed, I strongly encourage you to check out some creative ways to support your local indie and receive some great books.  

If you enter the main entrance for this building, Open Book, you can turn to the right and enter the coffee shop.  

Here's the bookstore entrance from the coffee shop.  

If you enter the main building entrance and go to the left, you'll enter this wonderful shop filled with the sidelines you might find together with the books in other indies.  

Display of new releases in the bookstore.  

Community advocacy is an independent bookstore trademark.  I haven't seen anything like this and I think it's great.  

Lots of great staff picks.  

There are a few sidelines in the bookstore.  

Customer participation!  Another great indie idea.  

If you're on a budget, go to this section.  

A wonderful place to stretch out and try a book.  

Overview of the store looking from the back toward the front entrance. 

With Sophie on the left and Allison in the center, two of the fine booksellers you'll meet at Milkweed Books.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Books Revisited - St. Cloud, MN

Books Revisited, St. Cloud, MN
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I'm over 300 bookstores into my journey (and now pushing 400) and I can't believe I haven't discovered this bookstore until now.  How did this gem escape my attention?  And its not like it just opened either.  This is one of the "survivor" indies that's overcome many challenges over the years, opening in 1991 and serving St. Cloud in its current downtown location for over 20 years.  The good news is that its no longer a secret to me and if anyone in the St. Cloud area doesn't know about it yet, maybe this will help them find their way through the doors.

I have a feeling that for many of the store's regular customers, this place is legendary in St. Cloud.  They offer a few new books but most of the inventory is used books.  Customers can receive store credit or cash for the books they bring in but most customers will take the credit for the better deal.  They don't aggressively pursue used books (estate sales, e.g.) because as bookseller Jacki told me, the books find the store.  Books Revisited also offers a pretty good inventory of collectible and vintage books, many of which can be purchased through their website.  I saw a few book related jigsaw puzzles here but other than that, there were few or no sidelines.  If you're a serious book person, this is your place.  And you'll have plenty to pick from, approximately 100,000 books on the large main level with even more stored in the basement.  They also work with students from St. Cloud State University offering a text book buy back and reselling program twice a year.  This is especially beneficial for the store in January when business can be slow.

In addition to the regular customers, the store sees tourists here, many who return on an annual basis. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable and owner Jon L. is the best.  A great guy to talk to about books and bookstores which makes this store and this visit a 5-star experience.

If you're in the St. Cloud area and haven't been here yet, wow, get with it.  You're missing out on a store that deserves national attention.  You're going to meet super people and have a great experience.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, Heather Morris.  Based on the true story of Lale Sokolov who survives because he knows several languages and also put in the position of the camp tattooist.  He meets his future wife at the camp and survives to marry her.  He's also an angel for the survival of many.  A testament to love and humanity under the darkest of conditions.  This book is outstanding.  Highly recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  The President's Hat, Antoine Laurain.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  German Boy, Wolfgang W. E. Samuel.

I always enjoy seeing the bookstore sidewalk chalkboard signs.  

Another exterior view of the storefront and the massive display window.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

View looking to the right from the front entrance.  

Neatly arranged table display near the front entrance.  

All things Minnesota.  

Some of the store's new books can be found on this display.  

I like this book display but I REALLY like this old dresser that they use for it.  

Agatha Christie fans should definitely visit here and check out this full set.  

Including Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Lord Tennyson.  

Bring in your books so you can get more books!

The long aisle from the front of the store to the back.  

Include this indie among the many others that are located in historical spaces.  

If you're a Stephen King fan, look for this display.  

One of the many book nooks.  

A couple of great places to sit and take a book for a spin.  

This is an elevated space on the right side of the store.  Lots of books and chairs to try them out.  

A partial view of that elevated space.  

Partial view of the children's section.  

The elevated space looks down into the children's section.  

Don't plan on leaving the store any time soon.  You'll have a lot of books to look through.  

Looking from the back of the store toward the front entrance.  

Overview of the store looking toward the front.  

With Jon on the left, the fine owner at Books Revisited.  Thanks for a great visit.