When Open Book -- which was founded by Milkweed Editions, the Loft Literary Center, and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts -- opened in 2000, it immediately became a flagship literary arts center. Over 200,000 people visited last year. Now, the hot spot gets a new addition, as Milkweed, which has their offices on the third floor, opens its own bookstore, Milkweed Books, with a grand opening this evening.
Daniel Slager, the publisher and CEO of Milkweed, says the bookstore came about as a result of conversations that started two years ago. While being one of the founding organizations of Open Book has been beneficial in establishing them as one of the largest literary and book centers in America, they haven't had a physical point of contact with the local community. "That's what we are looking for," he says.
The store is relatively small in size, taking up about 750 square feet. Located behind the coffee shop in Open Book, it has its own front door going out onto the sidewalk. There's a little reading couch/nook for visitors, and Milkweed plans to offer subscription services, memberships, and bike delivery for people nearby.
The shop is located in downtown east, the fastest growing part of Minneapolis. Even though the area is developing in leaps and bounds -- 400 apartment units can be found within two blocks -- there are no other bookstores in the area, with the exception of Minnesota Center for Book Arts, which focuses on art books, fine art, and beautiful paper.
Slager hopes the bookstore will help Milkweed become a better publisher. "I don't know of any other publishes our size in our field that have done anything like this," Slager says. While there are a few publishers in Europe that have their own stores, it's very rare in the United States.
Hopefully, the new bookstore will also prove mutually beneficial to the other partners at Open Book. The other day, during their soft opening‚ a customer came into the store to buy a book, and asked if they had bags for purchase. Milkweed's store doesn't, but MCBA has plenty of beautiful bags to choose from.
"We hope the increased traffic will benefit them," Slager says, "and that some of their people will wander into our store, too."
For instance, the Loft is starting a new series of classes for readers. "Hopefully some of those readers and courses will be getting books from our bookstore," says Slager.
The store will be about 15 percent Milkweed books, with the rest of the stock made up of literature published across America from a number of small presses. "We want to interest people in books they wouldn't normally encounter," Slager says.
Today's opening event includes refreshments, tours, and shopping beginning at 5:30 p.m., and a short program featuring Deni Ellis Bechard, author of Into the Sun‚ at 6:30 p.m.