Final chapter on Reading Frenzy ends

• Corner bookstore in downtown Elk River closed Feb. 1

by Britt Aamodt

Contributing Writer

The email began, “Mike and I, the owners of Reading Frenzy, have made the difficult decision to close our bookstore.”

Sheri Olson hit send and the email shot out to the thousands of people for whom the bookstore had become something like a good friend over the years. The polestar of the area’s literary scene, Reading Frenzy closed its Elk River location Feb. 1. The Zimmerman location closed six months prior.

Immediately, the responses poured in. Olson heard from book buyers, authors, writing group members, publishers, staff members and other bookstore proprietors.

Submitted photo  Sheri Olson inside Reading Frenzy Corner Bookstore in downtown Elk River before it closed its doors this past Saturday.
Submitted photo
Sheri Olson inside Reading Frenzy Corner Bookstore in downtown Elk River before it closed its doors this past Saturday.

“I was getting emails from all of them,” Olson said.

Authors told her how her how their appearances in Zimmerman and Elk River had been among of the best of their careers. She’d marketed their events so that the authors actually had an audience. She gave them a good spot in the store. She provided food.

But above all, Olson turned what could’ve been just another book event into an experience that participants still talk about. After the announcement, many went to the store’s Facebook page to share memories.

Reading Frenzy started September 2010 in a Zimmerman storefront next to Dunn Bros. The store boasted a selection of new and used books. It hosted story time in the children’s play area, complete with a red dog house (the store’s mascot was Frenzy the dog), called Frenzy’s Backyard.

Writing groups met there. Authors from every genre made stops there on book tours. In 2012 alone, Olson welcomed some 50 authors.

April of last year, when the Arts Alliance moved into downtown Elk River’s Granite Shores, the bookstore opened Reading Frenzy Corner in the gallery area. The new partnership was celebrated with a sold-out event with best-selling mystery author William Kent Krueger.

McCoy’s Pub catered the evening.

Olson has been a strong advocate of supporting other local businesses.

“We worked well with other businesses. If you get the customers in, we all benefit,” she said. Her partnership with the Arts Alliance was particularly strong. “When we collaborated, we always had fantastic turnouts.”

“She created a warm environment,” said Stacy Reiseck, gallery and programs director at the arts organization. “She made anyone who walked through the door feel like they’d just walked into her house.”

The Alliance learned of Olson’s decision to close after the holidays. Sales weren’t sufficient to keep up with costs. Olson and her husband talked it over and decided it was time to call it a day.

“Even though we’d had a fantastic time and had all these fun events,” she said.

Among the more memorable were the mystery dinners, the pie contest, the day BOB FM broadcast from the Zimmerman store and the turtle races.

The store put on its own version of the Hunger Games. Called Frenzy Games, contestants competed for a hundred-dollar gift certificate in near-death matches of rock, paper and scissors.

Olson is sad to see the store close, she said, but she’s also grateful for the people she’s met and the lessons learned along the way.

“I learned that I’m good at events planning,” she said.

She has put those skills to work in a marketing and events planning side business, an endeavor that will be occupying her as she transitions from bookselling.

Another lesson learned is how vital customers are to small businesses.

“If you love a store, you need to shop it, or it goes away,” she said. “People can always shop online. But they’ll come to your store for excellent customer service. We always tried to be part of the community and to give something back. And it was fun for us. That’s our story.”