Grand Rapids mall to keep indy bookstore open

PHOTO: Village Bookstore FB page

PHOTO: Village Bookstore FB page

Here’s some first hand perspective on book stores in Northern Minnesota. My book, “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range, was published in 2008 by a small house, Red Step Press, based in Duluth. As a local book from a new press we had a good run. Without getting into numbers that might embarrass me in big time publishing circles, we did sell our first printing and most of our second run.

We sold more than half the books at independent bookstores in Virginia, Hibbing, or Grand Rapids, Minnesota. In years to come, the Woodward’s store in Virginia (they sold books *and* yarn) closed. My friends Joe and Mary retired from the Howard Street Booksellers in Hibbing and no one took over the shop. They do order books for people if you all them.

And the Village Bookstore in Grand Rapids? For the last year, rumors circulated that they weren’t going to last much longer. The owner neared retirement. His daughters found other work.

But unlike many independent bookstores, which DO go gently into that good night, the Central Square Mall refuses to let it close.

This, from a Christopher Fernlund story in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review:

Many may have noticed changes happening at the Village Bookstore. Repainting, reorganizing and a bit of disorder over the last month have culminated into many rumors about the fate of the Village Bookstore.

“People could tell something was happening,” said Central Square Mall Manager Jean Healy who explained the bookstore is not moving or closing but has been bought by Central Square Mall. “We didn’t want to lose the bookstore.”

The mall will expand the store to include gifts and other merchandise as well as the traditional selection of books. This helps them keep the bookstore, but also replaces what was lost when Reed Drug closed last year.
It’s nice to see a community rally despite the challenges facing small businesses. Many malls (I’m looking at you, Irongate Mall in Hibbing) suffer under absentee ownership that is content to let the properties shrivel and die, unwilling to invest much to change or keep tenants. That’s not the case here.
Moreover, it will be good to say there there is at least one independent bookstore on the Mesabi, even if it is in … DUM dum DUM! … Grand Rapids.
Speaking of my book “Overburden,” I will post some news about it soon. We’re going out of print soon because my publisher is idling her press and our warehouser (the wonderful and very fair Partners, which served many indy stores) will close soon. But a few boxes remain, and the 10th Anniversary of approaches in November. Whatever will I do? Stay tuned!


  1. I’ve read that independent book sellers, especially those with used books, are doing at least ok in many areas. The profit margin on used books is apparently higher. And people live to browse. I’d think that in a touristy area like GR, used books might be a hit.

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