A Rochester couple turns a new page with bookstores

ROCHESTER – Anna Smith was greater than somewhat livid along with her husband, Andy, final December.

The Smiths, homeowners of the Grey Duck Theater & Espresso Home in Rochester, determined to tour a former Carnegie Library constructing in Zumbrota after Andy realized it was on the market for $150,000. We must always take a look at it, Andy advised him. It is going to be enjoyable, he mentioned.

The Smiths had opened a used bookstore simply two months earlier subsequent to their microtheater, and Anna hadn’t decreed any new enterprise till 2023. After assembly with the constructing’s proprietor, the 2 discovered one other alternative on the drive again. by automotive.

“I mentioned, ‘I am so offended proper now,'” Anna recalled, whereas Andy reminded her that she had used extra censorship-free language to explain her emotions on the time. “I am so mad that that is so excellent that we now have to do it, however this isn’t an excellent time!”

That is how the Smiths ended up opening the Zumbrota Literary Society in July, named for the native guide group that petitioned philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for the cash to construct a library within the metropolis within the early twentieth century. It is the couple’s second used bookstore in lower than a 12 months after leaping into the bookselling business. Its timing is nice, as business consultants say the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the rise of impartial bookstores after years of decline as shoppers flip away from on-line retailers like Amazon.

“It appears to have stimulated folks’s curiosity in following their values ​​and doing what they need to do,” mentioned Carrie Obry of the Midwest Unbiased Booksellers Affiliation.

E-book gross sales had been up nearly throughout the board in 2020 and 2021 in comparison with pre-pandemic ranges, as folks caught at dwelling appeared for methods to entertain themselves. Knowledge from market data firm NDP Group exhibits that round 827 million books had been offered in 2021, up 9% from the earlier 12 months.

Obry mentioned the affiliation has added 52 new bookstores for the reason that pandemic started as extra individuals are drawn to promoting books.

The Smiths met in graduate college in California and got here to Rochester about three years in the past to open Grey Duck, partially to be nearer to Anna’s household in Cottage Grove. Andy, who grew up in Los Angeles, loves movie and the neighborhood that has sprung up round impartial movie.

They weren’t trying to broaden till the identical actual property agent who discovered them the placement of the theater confirmed them the constructing subsequent door.

The Smiths contacted Honest Commerce Books in Crimson Wing to see in the event that they wished to broaden to Rochester. Though Honest Commerce ultimately declined, the homeowners inspired the Smiths to run a bookstore of their very own.

“It wasn’t essentially that we wished to open a bookstore ourselves, it was simply that we wished this house to be occupied,” Anna mentioned.

The Smiths opened Backyard Celebration Books in October 2021, with the assistance of a web based fundraising marketing campaign and guide donation drives that supplied in-store reductions.

Anna had labored half time on the Rochester Public Library, the place she realized to scrub and restore books. The Smiths additionally bought guide and shelf stock from a neighborhood bookstore that closed.

Backyard Celebration has already turned a revenue, and the Smiths have three part-time staff. They’ve additionally employed a artistic director for each bookstores.

The Smiths say they will not open any extra companies for some time, Anna says till 2040, although Andy is working for state consultant in Home District 25B this fall. Nevertheless, they’re inspired by space residents embracing brick-and-mortar storefronts.

“Whereas Amazon is unquestionably handy, there’s one thing very nice a few native place the place you may go and speak to folks,” Anna mentioned.

Leave a Comment