Saturday, December 16, 2006

Common Good Books: A place to visit in Saint Paul

Garrison Keillor, a wealthy celebrity and twin cities fixture, has decided to blow some cash on an independent bookstore called
Common Good Books. As best I can tell it doesn't have a web site or a marketing budget. It's downstairs from Nina's Coffee Shop, an upscale bohemian hangout in what was once a chancy neighborhood. Purely by coincidence, it's across from Representative Betty McCollum's office. (Keillor is a hard core democrat.)

Emily and I wandered in, and fell in love with both the bookstore and Nina's upstairs (there's a staircase from inside Nina's to the bookstore, Nina's has wifi). It's not a big place, but every book is remarkable. The reading nooks with the overhead skylight are irresistible. It reminds me of the much grander bookstores west of the University of Chicago, and of a much mourned East Lansing fixture that died after an ill-fated move. Odegard's of Saint Paul was like that, but perhaps a bit more commercial.

Keillor is wealthy enough to fund bookstore for decades -- if he wants to. There are worse ways to lose money. Oddly enough, the bookstore and the location are sufficiently appealing and unusual that, despite the negligible marketing budget, he might one day break even ...

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