So we are feeling sort of like the comedy-tragedy masks right now: one howling in despair, one laughing with glee.
Micawber’s, tucked into a cozy garden-level spot in St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood, had downsized in recent years but hung on as long as possible. It announced its closing in March when owner Tom Bielenberg was badly injured after falling on the ice.
Sixth Chamber, on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, specialized in used books. (Its companion store in River Falls, Wis., Fox Den Books, will remain open, and the store also has a terrific blog: https://jamesbooks.net.)
And Loome, in Stillwater, might have had the hardest row to hoe — it catered to a very specialized clientele, selling books on religion and philosophy.
The three new bookstores will not take their places, but are carving out new niches.
One of them (Storied Owl Books) will carry bulk candy! And one of them sells beer.
That would be Cream and Amber, which opened Feb. 28 at 1605 Mainstreet in Hopkins. Like any bookstore, it sells books (both new and used). Like a lot of bookstores, it sells coffee. And like very few other bookstores, it sells beer — in cans, on tap.
“Independent bookstores are on the rise as people look for ways to support local businesses and look for spaces to connect with others,” said co-owner Katie Terhune. Terhune thinks beyond books — the space also offers yoga classes and open mic nights. A community room is used for book club meetings, birthday parties and other events.
The Irreverent Bookworm, 5163 Bloomington Av. S., Mpls., plans to open in September, but its Facebook page is already active and the store is hosting giveaways and planning pop-up and sneak-peek events.
“I believe in the unique magic that a physical bookstore can bring to a community,” said Meg Niesen, who took time out during a busy week (three children home for spring break) to answer my questions. “There is something irreplaceable about the experience of browsing through shelves, inhaling the scent of bound paper, holding the books in your hands.”
She admits to being a little nervous as opening day approaches. “I’m a realist, and I understand the odds that small business owners face,” she said. “But this is my lifelong dream, and I need to be able to say that I had the courage to try.”
And Storied Owl Books, 2059 Randolph Av., St. Paul, is set to open right around Indie Bookstore Day. (No precise date yet, but they’re working as fast as they can.)
“We’re stocking a fun selection of bulk candy to pair nicely with a good book,” said owners Amy Turany and Marcus Mayer in an e-mail. “We hope to be a place people think of when they want to escape into a different world.”
Yes, opening a new small business is risky. But, “we love books and the people who love them,” they said. “We’re going to give it our best shot. Being a family-run store, with both of us also keeping our day jobs in one form or another, we also have a little bit of a safety net.”
The three new stores join the 100 or so other bookstores already scattered across our state. I hate to lose any, but I’m always glad to see new ones come along.
But the best thing you can do is pretty simple: Go to a bookstore, and buy a book.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks