Even as civil unrest radiates outward from Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed by a police officer one week ago, the Twin Cities bookselling community continues to struggle to surmount this latest crisis. Most of the bookstores in the areas targeted by protesters—some of which were beginning to reopen after having closed in March as the pandemic spread, with limited hours and restrictions on customer browsing—have been shut down completely for the safety of store employees.
Moon Palace Books, located close to the Minneapolis Police Department’s third precinct, remains unscathed, except for a smashed small window sustained during an attempted break-in. The exterior facade is completely boarded up, and contains graffiti as well as the store's own artwork. But two legendary indies in the Mill City’s Midtown area were not so fortunate. Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore and Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore were completely destroyed on Friday night, when the building housing both was set on fire and burned down. Uncle Hugo's was the oldest independent science fiction indie bookstore in the country.
On Saturday, owner Don Blyly posted on the store’s website under the headline, “Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s Foully Slain,” the same statement he sent employees and posted on Facebook earlier that day: vandals had broken all the windows in the two stores and then squirted accelerant through them. By the time he arrived on the scene in the wee hours of Saturday morning, both stores were too full of smoke for him to save anything. Buildings on both sides of the street were burning as “dozens of people were dancing around.”
“No sign of any cops, national guard troops, or any help,” Blyly wrote. “I'm pretty sure the insurance policy excludes damage from a civil insurrection, so I suspect I won't get a cent for either the building or the contents.”
Blyly disclosed that he intends to set up a GoFundMe fundraising campaign for the stores after dealing with the insurance company; a New Jersey supporter's GoFundMe campaign was paused within 24 hours of launching, and the store is requesting that people not contribute to that campaign, explaining that any such effort going on right now is against the owner's "expressed wishes." On Sunday, the store's website tindicated hat the Uncles may become a "limited mail-order business."
Southeast of Moon Palace and the Uncles bookstores, Dreamhaven Books and Comics, in the Standish neighborhood, was also targeted by vandals Friday night. The front door was smashed, windows were broken, and items were thrown around, according to the store’s Facebook page, “but mostly they ignored the books.” The intruders tried to burn down the store, but were only able to successfully set fire to one book, Shelf Life, a 2002 self- published anthology of short stories, SFF, and horror, edited by store owner Greg Ketter with an introduction by Neil Gaiman—“which they left to smolder and which put itself out.” Ketter wrote. Published in hardcover, it clocks in at 285 pages and retails for $75; there are only 1,000 numbered copies in print.
Ketter and his family and staff are maintaining watch inside the store, and have invited supporters to help clean up Dreamhaven and even sleep there to protect it while the civil unrest continues. Ketter plans on launching a fundraising campaign at some point.
Magers & Quinn in the Uptown neighborhood sustained broken windows Thursday night, but the store was not looted and inventory remains intact. The building now has been boarded up and operations remain suspended.
Next Chapter Booksellers in St. Paul posted on social media that it cannot resume operations because it no longer has a front door for even curbside pickup due to its facade being completely boarded up. After shutting down all weekend, Once Upon a Crime, a few blocks north of one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, is opening on Monday, 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m., for “drive up service."
Elsewhere, in Philadelphia, Shakespeare & Co.'s year-old outlet in the City of Brotherly Love, reported that a large display window was shattered during Saturday night rioting in Center City, but that the window was safety glass; the pane behind it remained intact, though it was graffitied. "Nothing was stolen," store manager Michael Fortney told PW. The store remains closed until further notice.
And Busboys & Poets CEO Andy Shallal disclosed that a window was broken at the Busboys & Poets outlet on K Street in downtown Washington, D.C. He was philosophical about the damage, though, tweeting this morning, "A broken window can be fixed. A life is gone forever. We believe that Black Lives Matter because when black lives matter, then and only then will all lives matter."
This story has been updated with further information.