More than two months after uprisings against police brutality in Minneapolis enveloped the city, the owners of several indies directly affected by a weekend of property destruction in late May are still dealing with the aftermath.
Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore and Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore, two indies known locally as the Uncles and housed in one building in Minneapolis’ Midtown area, were destroyed in a late-night fire set by arsonists on May 29-30. Owner Don Blyly vowed to rebuild, and a GoFundMe fund to support his efforts has raised more than $166,000 to date toward its $500,000 goal.
According to an update posted earlier this week on that GoFundMe campaign page, Blyly wrote in great detail of the frustrations of dealing with the City of Minneapolis in the months following the fire, from trouble obtaining a demolition permit to discovering only days ago that the water to the building had not been shut off immediately following the fire. But the city’s bureaucracy is not the only red tape Blyly said he must wade through, noting that working with publishers during a time when supply chains and communications are disrupted everywhere due to the pandemic comes with its own issues.
“Immediately after the fire, the publishers were all asked to put the account on hold—so that no orders could be shipped to us until we were ready—cancel all the old purchase orders that had not yet been sent, and change the address from the store address to my home address to speed up communications,” Blyly said. Blyly still received some packages that were already en route when a hold was placed on his account, although other packages were returned to publishers.
It’s taken all summer for him to receive credits from some publishers, Blyly said, adding that “sometimes, the credit for a box of books was different than the invoice for the same box of books.” When he asked for copies of “questionable invoices,” oftentimes his request would be ignored. “It also didn’t help when publishers decided to switch from paper statements to email statements and then had bugs in their computers,” Blyly added.
In contrast, Dreamhaven Books and Comics, in the city’s Standish neighborhood, is “almost completely back to normal,” according to owner Greg Ketter. Dreamhaven was heavily vandalized during a burglary that same weekend, but all that remains in terms of repairs, Ketter wrote in an email, is “a few cosmetic jobs: filling and painting screw holes from boarding up the windows; new interior door that was kicked in; replace one showcase that couldn't be repaired.”
While the store has re-opened, foot traffic has been light, Ketter reports, but online orders have made up for that, due to “mostly big-ticket sales.” He added: “All in all, we're in very good shape and I expect we'll survive a truly terrible 2020.”
Another Minneapolis indie located in an area that experienced damage in the wake of George Floyd’s death, Magers & Quinn in Uptown, which had a window broken that weekend, has since removed boarding from its windows and is open to foot traffic. “We definitely have less walk-in retail traffic than we used to,” store manager Jess Blackstock wrote in an email, “but many people have supported us through our website and curbside pickup.”
As for Moon Palace, which is located on the same block in the Powderhorn neighborhood as the Minneapolis police’s third precinct building—the target of violent protests for several nights until it was set on fire—the two-story façade remains boarded up. The store is still closed to browsers, although orders can be picked up in person at a window on the side of the building. The store, which remained virtually unscathed throughout the uprisings while buildings around it burned, gained national attention for its support of the protesters. As a result, there has been such an upsurge in orders from throughout the country all summer that its co-owner, Angela Schwesnedl, emailed in response to PW that she is “too busy to email until the weekend.”