Milkweed Books a sign of independent bookstore revival

Despite the rise of eBooks, a new bookstore finds success in Minneapolis on Washington Avenue.

- The people at Milkweed Books spent Tuesday putting the finishing touches on what they hope is a new beginning. The store, operated by Minneapolis-based publisher Milkweed Editions, held its grand opening on the first floor of the Open Book building. It was an event two years in the making.

“We’re standing in the largest literary and book arts center in America. And this little space right here, where we have our book store, was vacant for the last couple of years,” said Daniel Slager, CEO and Publisher of Milkweed Editions. “We approached the Open Book board of directors and said we’d like to open a bookstore there.”

The business of brick-and-mortar bookselling has been rocked in recent years, by the dominance of Amazon and the rise of e-readers. But the numbers of independent bookstores nationwide are growing once again.

“What I was always tell people is that publishing is going through more changes right now than at any time since Gutenberg, and we’re part of it,” Slager said. “Even 10 years ago, a lot of smart people were predicting there would not be books printed today.”

A bookstore launched in the space soon after Open Book opened in 2000, but the store later closed. Slager felt the timing was right to open a new store as the Downtown East neighborhood continues to boom.

“Part of it obviously is the neighborhood changing in terms of how many people are living here and the concentration of other restaurants and retail,” said Hans Weyandt, manager of Milkweed Books.

Slager and his staff say the store will offer some of the usual big-budget bestsellers, but also try to expose readers to new authors.  They hope this store offers an experience online bookselling can’t match.

“When you have a conversation with someone, and you figure out what they’re looking for, for themselves or for anniversary present or a birthday gift, it’s a special thing that you can be a part of a certain level of trust,” Weyandt said.

One sign of the demand for a bookstore in the neighborhood has been the success of an ongoing Kickstarter campaign. It surpassed its initial goal of $25,000, and organizers are now aim for a goal of  $40,000. The store is located inside the Open Book building at 1011 Washington Avenue South in Minneapolis. 

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