Five years after legendary Twin Cities bookseller Dan Odegard was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (plasma cancer) in January 2010, he died Tuesday afternoon at his home in St. Paul, where his family had set him up in hospice care. He was 69 years old.
Odegard, with his ex-wife Michele Cromer-Poiríer (who also co-founded The Red Balloon Bookshop in 1984), founded Odegard’s on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue in 1978. The bookstore was a beloved literary icon until it closed in January 1992. Afterwards, Odegard remained a fixture on the Twin Cities literary scene: he owned two indie bookstores in Minneapolis after his divorce from Cromer-Poirier that were also named Odegard's, started up a short-lived book publishing company called Prodigal Publishing, ran his own literary agency for seven years, directed the trade publishing program at Hazelden Publishing from 1995-1998 and was publisher of Meadows Publishing for one year in 2000. He also maintained various publishing, bookselling, and writing consultancy ventures. Odegard subsequently went into mental health counseling and worked as director of administration since 2006 for Project Pathfinder, a nonprofit working to prevent sexual abuse.
"Dan Odegard was a bookseller's bookseller. He cared more about good writing, free expression, the community, and his co-workers than he did about making money. We will all miss him a lot," David Unowsky, once the owner of the Hungry Mind/Ruminator, said. Unowsky operated his bookstore on the other end of Grand Avenue between 1970-2004. He currently serves as events manager of Subtext Books in St. Paul.
“A bunch of us in [Twin Cities] bookselling worked at Odegard’s,” bookseller Sue Zumberge, the owner of Subtext told PW, ticking off names, including that of Colette Morgan, the owner of Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis. Morgan opened her own store in 1992 with a core inventory that had been culled from Odegard’s children’s department before it shut its doors.
“I loved Dan. He was such a bookseller,” said Zumberge, who worked for Odegard’s for four years. “He loved to read, he loved to talk about books, he loved to sell books, and he was good at it.”
Update: Arrangements for a memorial service in mid-May are pending. Contributions in honor of Odegard may be made to the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Rochester, Miinn.; all donations made to the center will be matched up to $500,000 until April 28 by Vice Media CEO Shane Smith, who is honoring his mother.