Monday, February 27, 2023

Twinflower Books - Center City, MN

Twinflower Books, Center City, MN

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Readers, have you been waiting for just the right inspiration to open your very own bookstore?  I think I can share with you a VERY easy way to do this and all it requires for you to pull it off is a closet.  That's right.  If you have a closet, you can begin your bookstore journey like owners Dan and Mary at Twinflower Books in Center City, MN.  This was their humble beginning in 2021 as a pop-up business and they stored their inventory in a closet-sized space.  This pop-up inventory is still available to customers today in addition to the brick and mortar store that has been open for 5 months.  As a pop-up, Twinflower Books can be found at farmer's markets, the Karl Oskar festival, vendor shows, and other various outdoor locations and events in this Chisago Lakes area.  The brick and mortar store is still working to attract customers and half the battle is just getting the word out that the area has an independent bookstore.  If you're reading this, now you know!

After a career in industrial painting, Dan decided he wanted to write and own a bookstore and Mary joined him in the journey to his dream.  Twinflower Books is named after a Swedish flower, an acknowledgement of the area's immigrants and culture.  You'll find many new books in the store that are Swedish related in addition to recent releases and popular bestsellers.  The store does an especially good job of promoting, supporting, and offering books by Minnesota authors.  In fact, if you're a Minnesota author with a book you want to publish, Twinflower Books offers a publishing service.  They have an excellent open store space that provides plenty of room for their events.  As for sidelines, many items offered have been created by local artists.  Greeting cards and earth watches are certainly unique to this store.  Unusally curious to me are the micro puzzles of 150 pieces that are packaged in test tube shaped containers.

Summers should be big for this store with lots of tourists.  But, to you readers in Center City, Lindstrom, and Chisago, pay these wonderful people a visit in this new bookstore.  You'll enjoy a great bookstore and have a terrific time talking books with Dan and Mary.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Whalebone Theater, Joanna Quinn.  New release, historical fiction that takes place from the early 1920s to after the end of WWII.  The story follows the lives of three children who grow up together at Chilcomb Manor on the coast of England.  Their childhood is spent engaging their imaginations and having little contact with absent parents.  But as WWII begins, main character and headstrong Cristabel and cousin Digsby forge their own paths and work for the British underground in the war effort.  I enjoyed this one and recommend it. 

CURRENTLY READING:  Virgil Wander, Leif Enger. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Let Flowers Be Flowers, Daniel Rehm.  The Emmigrants, Vilhelm Moberg. 


Remember readers, don't judge a book by its cover.  Inside this unassuming storefront are many wonderful books that will take you on your next adventure. 

Looking into the bookstore from the front entrance. 

As the subtitle suggests, fika is the art of the Swedish coffee break.  A relevant book for this region's heritage. 

Kids can sit at this table and create their own bookmarks with stickers, glitter, and markers.  A great bookstore activity and idea. 

Directly to the left from the entrance is a portion of the children's area. 

How do we get through Minnesota winters if we don't have books?  Jigsaw puzzles of course!

An antique oven is one of the most unique book displays I've seen. 

Book display for kids and adults and also some sidelines. 

Use your imagination to realize this beautiful view from the bookstore and visualize a clear scenic lake, with soft breezes on a summer day. 

I'm not sure I've seen these.  Micro puzzles, 150 piece puzzles packaged in a large test tube.

The greeting cards here are fantastic, one-of-a-kind created by local artists. 

Another interesting sideline representative of this area, an earth watch. 

A very common icon of Swedish culture. 

Shelf displays of recent releases. 

Dan and Mary are strong advocates for local authors.  This display shows some of those books. 

Wait?  Didn't Dan Brown write The Da Vinci Code?  Yes, he did.  He also wrote The Da Fishi Code.  But this is a different Dan Brown.  Clever, very clever. 

I'm fascinated by what little I've read about this author and his historical fiction based on real life so I bought one of his books. 

Overview of the store looking from the back toward the front entrance.  This is an excellent space that is used for events. 

With Mary on the left and Dan in the middle, the two fine owners at Twinflower Books.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Avant Garden Books & Coffee - Anoka, MN

Avant Garden Books & Coffee, Anoka, MN

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Readers, my disappointment on this bookstore visit today is that I only saw the tip of the iceberg of what it will become.  Even Jenni, the owner, told me I need to come back because she is just getting started.  But even now, you can see that there are big things ahead for this indie, its enthusiastic owner, and the Anoka community.

This business has been in place for many years at this great location right downtown.  For these many years, this was strictly a cafe and coffeeshop and that continued to be the case when Jenni and her husband bought the business at the beginning of the pandemic.  After surviving the pandemic as just a cafe, Jenni transitioned the business about a year ago to include a bookstore with the cafe.  The results?  A booming business in a location with a reasonable lease and positive profits.  Congratulations Jenni!

This one-level bookstore with an outdoor seating area offers all new books and a few sidelines including buttons, puzzles, and t-shirts to name a few.  The store will soon expand to a spacious 2nd level that will include a devoted children's section and expand to offer a story time.  They host events in the store and I suspect that schedule will get busier as they complete their additional space.  They also have book clubs in the store, always a great way to bring people into the space.  For now, the business trend is strong cafe sales on weekdays and strong bookstore sales on weekends.

Jenni's journey to this place in time has taken her from stay-at-home mom, to talented barista, to bookseller and owner.  The common denominator to all those positions is clearly a very nice person.  But, what do I always tell you readers?  Bookstore people are the best and your experience meeting them and visiting the store can never be duplicated online. 

Anoka is located a short distance north and west of the Twin Cities.  Do yourself a favor and discover this fantastic business that brings something new and unique to the Anoka community.  Go to a bookstore and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Whalebone Theater, Joanna Quinn.    

Beautiful front window display that also reflects the photographer soon to enter the store. 


View looking into the store from the front entrance. 


View looking directly to the left from the front entrance. 


I don't know the story behind this very beautiful engraving but I'm willing to bet it was done by a talented local artist. 


Table display for nature lovers. 


Black History Month. 


Foodies will love these options. 


If you're a Prince Harry fan or a fan of the royals, get this one. 


Everything on this cafe menu sounds good. 


Winter reads for the winter season. 


A winter display for the kids. 


Take your time and browse this picture. 


Very attractive cafe counter. 


Lots of comfortable seating for a sip and a read. 


A great book for any small business owner. 


This is the view looking into the upstairs level.  Use your imagination and you'll see a gorgeous space filled with books. 


Looking to the right from the top of the stairs.  This direction corresponds to the front of the store and is tentatively planned to be the children's area. 


Overview of the 2nd level.  I'm excited to watch this evolve. 


No, I did not have to serve time in the Anoka jail.  In the summers, this patio will be filled with cafe customers and readers. 


Stickers are hot sellers everywhere I've been recently. 


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


This is a very tiny little fellow spotted in the bookstore and he was pretty hard to find.  See if you can find this reader on your visit to the store. 

With Jenni, the fine owner at Avant Garden Books & Coffee.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Friday, February 10, 2023

Bright Side Bookshop - Flagstaff, AZ


Bright Side Bookshop, Flagstaff, AZ

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I've learned that I'm somewhat naive about how winter can be in northern Arizona, especially the high elevation of Flagstaff.  I was prepared for sunny Arizona not snowy Arizona!  The day before my drive up from Phoenix, Bright Side Books closed due to heavy snow.  On the drive up the radio said Flagstaff scored the snow jackpot.  Uh oh.  Since I'd already postponed once due to travel trouble I was determined to forge ahead despite over one foot of recent snow (it looked like a heck of a lot more).  Unlike most of my bookstore visits where I meet a bookseller in a comfortable store bathed in books, Maddox was outside shoveling a path to the store.  The bright side of my perseverance is I was rewarded with a visit filled with book talk from terrific people in a fantastic independent bookstore.  

Flagstaff is a year-round tourist destination giving Bright Side Books year round customers to complement the large group of regulars and some from the University of Northern Arizona community.  The store has a great arrangement with some of the UNA professors and provides recommended books to students at a discount.  They also enjoy a huge influx of business during move-in week for the university with a large enrollment of approximately 30,000 students.  For the regular customers they offer an incentive program, something I wish more indies would do.

Enter this indie and enjoy all new books and a variety of sidelines.  These include unique cards created locally and numerous oddities like Black Wing pencils and Farty Putty (my 10-year-old self could easily annoy my sisters with this) in addition to the usual fare.  The small bookshelves that run the length of the store down the middle are all on wheels enabling them to clear space and host events on site.  I love the old wooden floor and tin ceiling in this historic building with a great location in downtown Flagstaff.

This store has only been around for 6 years and might not be on the national  bookstore radar yet.  They should be.  I didn't meet the entire band but I met four of the stores' rock stars on my visit.  Store manager Bianca along with booksellers Maddox, Sam, and Leah couldn't have been nicer.

Ok readers, if I battle snowmaggedon to get here, you can easily do it.  No matter how difficult the travel conditions, it will be well worth it when you arrive and meet the wonderful people who work here and will gladly help you find your next great read.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Dear County Agent Guy, Jerry Nelson.  A series of vignettes about the author's experience of growing up in a large family and helping with the dairy operation owned by his parents.  Also includes his experiences of following in the footsteps of generations of farmers, family, marriage, farmer friends, and ancestry.  A humorous book that compares favorably with similar topics by Wisconsin author Michael Perry.  If you like Michael Perry, you'll like this book. 

CURRENTLY READING:  The Whalebone Theater, Joanna Quinn. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Born A Crime, Trevor Noah.  

No, I am not in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, or Maine.  This is what greeted me in the high country of Flagstaff, AZ

Long view of a beautiful storefront.  Thanks to bookseller Maddox, it's a clean walk into the store. 

Of course!

One of my favorite signs in any bookstore window. 

Check out this gorgeous interior of the store from the front entrance. 

This assortment of decorative wraps and posters are a big hit with the students at the University of Northern Arizona, especially during move-in week. 

Wrap yourself around to the right of the entrance for this view. 

View looking directly to the left from the front entrance and you'll find a few of the greeting cards offered. 

Find this book cart and you'll find a bargain. 

Near the front entrance you'll find this display of various sidelines. 

A nice assortment of magazines on the left wall of the store. 

Display of staff picks on the right side wall of the store.  You'll also find staff picks throughout the store.  Just look for the shelf-talkers below the books. 

Attractive display of new and notable releases near the front of the store. 

Lovely art work by a local artist featuring the remarkable natural beauty of the area. 

Many independent bookstores offer unique and creative art created by local artists, 

Help the environment with these reusable dish clothes.  I was impressed. 

A valuable sideline for people in this region. 

I've discovered these Blackwing pencils in a few indies and they have sold well in some areas. 

Stickers are hot everywhere I visit. 

I thought this looked like an interesting series. 

One of my favorite views in any store.  Notice the shelf-talkers promoting staff recommendations. 

Wacky waving and wacky fun. 

I'm really attracted to stuff like this (ok, just work with me here people). 

Find some quirky bookstore socks for yourself or a friend. 

Two of my favorite things in historic buildings are these tin roofs...

... and wooden floors. 

Yes, kids will love this place, bring them along on your visit. 

Overview of the children's area. 

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

With Maddox in the center and store manager Bianca on the right, two of the fine people you'll meet at Bright Side Bookshop.  Thanks for a great visit.