Ruminator Books is closing its 3,000-sq.-ft. Minneapolis store at the end of March. The shop, which opened in May 2000, was one of the original tenants at Open Book, the downtown nonprofit center for writing, publishing and book arts. The store, less than half the size of Ruminator's flagship in St. Paul, specialized in fiction, poetry, writing, children's and regional authors.
"We couldn't make any money there," said Ruminator owner David Unowsky, who noted that the economic downturn and state and local funding snags made it look as if redevelopment along Washington Avenue, where Open Book is located, would take longer than expected.
"The building clearly, at this stage in its history, is a destination," said Chris Mahai, chair of Open Book's board of directors. "There's not enough neighborhood, everyday traffic yet for a retail location like Ruminator."
Mahai reported that several nonprofit and commercial organizations have expressed interest in the space, where they would join current tenants, including the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), the Loft Literary Center and Milkweed Editions. More than 11,000 people a month pass through the 52,000-sq.-ft. Open Book building for various classes and events.
Other than the lack of retail traffic, the center has exceeded expectations in the two years since it opened, according to Mahai. The Loft's membership has nearly doubled since it moved to Open Book, while MCBA's sales and programs (especially involving schools) have grown dramatically. Income from renting out studio and event space has allowed Open Book to meet or exceed its budget every year.
As for pedestrians, Mahai expects the number of passersby to grow as activity on Washington Avenue increases over the next few years; the Guthrie Theater is among the arts organizations planning to relocate to the area. "We knew we were pioneers," said Mahai. "It's developing pretty much as we thought it would."
Unowsky said Ruminator will continue to have a presence at the center, although it's still figuring out its role. Ruminator currently supplies books for Loft events and for Talking Volumes, a citywide book club of which the Loft is a sponsor, and the store is also in talks with MCBA about creating a kiosk or implementing a computer ordering system there.
Ruminator has no plans to open additional stores and will focus on its St. Paul location, which is the oldest independent in the Twin Cities.