Bookstore proves some dreams never die

The view inside Reading Frenzy is light and airy.

by Britt Aamodt
Special to the Star News
You’ve probably heard about the end of books, at least since the days when Bill Gates first wrote code for Microsoft and Steve Jobs conjured Apple computers.
Today, the competition for an audience is even fiercer.
Books, who needs ’em, when you can curl up with an iPad, Kindle or Nook, and dive into the latest bestseller by Janet Evanovich, John Sandford or William Kent Krueger with a few taps of your finger? And you can read every single one of those books from the same, slim device, without ever having to roust out of your chair to consult a distant bookshelf.
Books. They’re old technology.
So why, in September 2010, did Sheri Olson open a bookstore in Zimmerman? Doesn’t she know books are as dead as dinosaur bones?
What Olson knew — all she knew — was that she’d left a career as an assistant pastor and had spent the intervening years ruling out career options.
“I thought about being a teacher,” she said. “I thought about health care.”
But all roads led back to one stubborn idea. Olson wanted to be a bookstore owner. Dreams do not take into account boring realities, like economic slumps and market trends.
“It’s expensive to open a bookstore. You have to buy inventory up front” and out of your own pocket, said Olson.
In an effort to slow down the breakneck pace of her dreams, and to cover her bases, the aspiring entrepreneur opened a virtual shop. That way she could get a feel for the industry. She also shadowed two veterans of the bookselling trade.
She talked to the owners of Bookcase in Wayzata and Bookin’ It in Little Falls.
“I e-mailed Bookin’ It’s owner, Laura Hanson, out of the blue. We’d never met. But I liked what she was doing, and so I went up there and spent three or four hours just asking every question I could think of,” said Olson.
How do you shelve books? How do you engage book clubs? How do you host author events?
Months later, the pieces fell into place. Her virtual shop stepped into the real world.
“Everything came together in a week. We got the financing. We found fixtures. A bookstore closed and auctioned its bookshelves online,” said Olson, who for the past six months has been living her dream.
Reading Frenzy locates in the Zimmerman strip mall that houses Dunn Bros Coffee. A door connects the coffee shop and bookstore.
Olson always pictured a kid-sized doghouse and a picket fence for her store. That’s now a reality.
On Thursday night, kids gather in Frenzy’s Backyard, clamber in and out of the doghouse and sit cross-legged under a painted tree for story time.
A few bookshelves away, local author Jane Toleno presides at a weekly writer’s group. She runs two Thursday writer’s groups, 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
The store is busy. Sure, there are downtimes. But this night is not one. Patrons mill bookshelves, exchange manuscripts, absorb stories and carry purchases to the counter.
Olson has had six months to hone author events. She takes the “event” portion of the phrase seriously, because she wants her store to be a community hothouse for entertainment, relaxation and learning.
For example, Reading Frenzy hosted Twin Cities cartooning guru Bob Lipski. The creator of the comic book series “Uptown Girl” guided Frenzy guests through the writing and drawing their own comic book.
“I’m 47. I have half my life left,” said Olson. “I asked myself, What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”
You can find the answer at Reading Frenzy.

Jane Toleno, author of “Blind Sight: Come and See,” presides over a weekly writers’ group at the Zimmerman bookstore.

Schedule of Events

1 p.m., Saturday, March 26
Creative Journaling Workshop:  One of Reading Frenzy’s favorite people, Marva Sheriff, will share her talents as a journal writer & artist. You will have the opportunity to experience several creative techniques for journaling. Step out of the normal, everyday journaling & learn how to express your individuality. RSVP’s requested.

10:30 a.m., Thursday, April 7

Kids Story Hour w/Grandma Janet

1 p.m., Thursday, April 7
Writers’ Group: Everyone is welcome

6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 7
Writers’ Group – All welcome!

7 p.m., Thursday, April 7
Kids Story Hour with Ms. Aly

Tuesday, April 12
Used Book Sale

7 p.m., Tuesday, April 12
Fiction Book Club: New members welcome

10:30, Thursday, April 14

Kids Story Hour w/Grandma Janet

7 p.m., Thursday, April 14
Memoir Book Club: New members welcome

7 p.m., Thursday, April 14
Kids Story Hour with Ms. Aly

1 p.m., Saturday, April 16
Signing & Tasting with cookbook author Gretchen Morris
•Gretchen Morris, Author of: “Life’s Too Short, Don’t Skip Dessert!”, will make yummy treats to share and also talk about making small changes in our diets so we can live healthier. She also will be signing her brand new cookbook! Set this time aside to make a difference in your life and your family’s lives.

10:30 a.m., Thursday, April 21
Kids Story Hour w/Grandma Janet

Noon to 8 p.m., Thursday, April 21
Ladies on the Loose! – Mother/daughter pampering day

1 p.m., Thursday, April 21
Writers’ Group – All welcome

6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 21
Writers’ Group – All welcome!

7 p.m., Thursday, April 21
Kids Story Hour with Ms. Aly

Friday, April 22
Close at 3 p.m. of Good Friday

6:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 26
Kids Spring Craft Night –  please RSVP

Reading Frenzy owner Sheri Olson and staff members Ian Flaherty, Sandy Saby and Breda Day. The bookstore opened this past September in Zimmerman and has become gathering spot for people, groups and clubs.

10:30 a.m., Thursday, April 28
Kids Story Hour w/Grandma Janet

7 p.m., Thursday, April 28
Parenting discussion with John Toomer. As a retired school administrator, John has a wealth of knowledge and resources. He will share some thoughts and give time for discussion.
7 p.m., Thursday, April 28
Kids Story Hour with Ms. Aly

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