The building, which is home to three literary nonprofits — Milkweed, the Loft Literary Center and Minnesota Center for Book Arts — is already a center of the city's literary scene.
The new bookstore, which will be called Milkweed Books, is scheduled to open in late June or early July. Having a bookstore in the building has always been part of the plan.
When Open Book first opened in 2000, it had a bookstore on the ground floor — the same space that Milkweed Books will occupy. That shop was a satellite location for The Ruminator, a St. Paul-based bookstore. It closed after three years, and a series of other tenants have cycled through the space.
"It was too early for a bookstore," said Milkweed's publisher and CEO, Daniel Slager. "But this neighborhood has changed so much."
Foot traffic in the neighborhood and the building has increased dramatically since 2000, said Joe Skifter, general manager of Open Book.
"When we opened, we were surrounded by acres of surface parking lots," he said. "The Guthrie Theater wasn't there. The Mill City Museum wasn't there. But it's filled in with restaurants and shops."
Now, the new U.S. Bank Stadium is only blocks away, along with the lightrail. Condo buildings and new businesses have popped up along Washington Avenue. The closest bookstore to Open Book is Barnes & Noble on Nicollet Avenue.
The new store will be owned and operated by Milkweed, which publishes approximately twenty books of fiction, nonfiction and poetry per year. It's an unusual business model in the industry, to have a publisher own a bookstore. Slager sees it as a way to better connect with the public.
"There is traditionally kind of a barrier between publishers and the public," Slager said. "There are layers of salespeople and booksellers. We're stepping over that and making contact directly with our community."
Slager estimates that about a quarter of the store's stock will be Milkweed books, and the rest will come from a variety of publishers across the country, with a particular attention to independent literary presses.
"Really my ultimate hopes for the store is that it will be revenue positive for Milkweed Editions," Slager said. "If we make a dollar a year I'll be happy."
Editor's note (May 10, 2016): This story has been updated to reflect Milkweed's current publishing volume.
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