On October 17, 2011, Greg announced to the Dreamhaven mailing list that, after 35 years in the retail book business, he was going to close the physical store and solely sell books via mail-order and conventions. Herein lies my thoughts and a thumbnail sketch of reading and buying genre books in Minnesota.

Genre readers in Minnesota have been extraordinarily blessed in terms of bookstores. Sure, Mysterious Galaxy bookstore is a legend in the community, as is Forbidden Planet (both in Manhattan and in London, England). Borderlands Books in San Francisco has its stalwart defenders.

But here in Minneapolis, we have had two store genre bookstores, within several miles of each other, Uncle Hugo’s and Dreamhaven. Together, they have provided readers in the area a solid experience and resource for finding anything genre related. Coming in January, that experience is going to be restricted, in a physical bookstore sense, to Uncle Hugo’s

I come not to bury Dreamhaven but to praise it.

When I first moved here to Minneapolis in 2003, Dreamhaven was located on West Lake street, a few miles away from the Lake Street and Chicago Ave intersection that is a stone’s throw away from Uncle Hugo’s. While Uncle Hugos is and was a warren of books in a cloud of seeming disorder, Dreamhaven was polished, slick and younger, the perky niece to Uncle Hugo.

Dreamhaven has always had more media and non-book items than Uncle Hugo’s, giving it, to this expat New Yorker, a very Forbidden Planet sort of feel. Some of them, especially the ones under glass, are quite valuable, too.

Running a bookstore is not for sissies, and after decades of doing it, Greg, the owner, decided to scale back. And I understand that at one point, there were actually three Dreamhaven stores in the Twin Cities. High rents and gentrification, amongst other reasons, convinced him to move from Lake Street to Dreamhaven’s current location on 38th street in Fall 2008. (Not too far away from Uncle Hugo’s, just in a different direction).

This is a smaller space, more cluttered, and more time for Greg to work with the customers directly. And this space does have its charms, inside and out. However, even a scaled down operation has been too much, and so Greg has decided to close the last remaining store, and work conventions and mail-order. It is a shame, and it is a testament that if you don’t patronize your local independent book seller, they will go away. And patronizing the store by stealing is something Greg has complained about for years. It’s all in the end finally too much to keep up the physical store, and so that’s going away.

And so in January, the only remaining physical genre bookstore in the Twin Cities will be Uncle Hugo’s. As I said, it can be a warren of books, new and used, but we do have authors stopping through. I’ve even taken pictures of a couple of them. And I would be happy to take a picture of you, too, if your book tour brings you here. Minnesota gets far less love than the coasts, but we would be happy to have you visit.

And to readers and writers in general I do encourage you to come. I would be very cross if Uncle Hugo’s followed the fate of Dreamhaven.

Filed under: Columns

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