Moon Palace Books moves with the help of a 60-person book brigade

Moon Palace book brigade
Moon Palace customers turned out on Sunday, July 10, 2016, to help move the bookstore's inventory.
Tracy Mumford | MPR News

In the fall of 2012, Angela and Jamie Schwesnedl did something that seemed a little crazy: They opened a bookstore.

With the rise of Amazon and online ordering, brick-and-mortar bookstores were taking a big hit. Bookstores were shuttering — even Borders had closed. According to the New York Times, the number of stores in the American Booksellers Association dropped 20 percent between 2002 and 2011.

But their store, Moon Palace Books, has not only survived — it outgrew its pocket-sized spot in Minneapolis' Longfellow neighborhood in just a few years. The brightly-colored location built a devoted following of readers who popped in for book club meetings and author readings and other events.

So when it came time to move to a bigger location this past Sunday, Moon Palace did something else that seemed a little crazy: They asked their customers to help them move.

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It wasn't a long move — they relocated to a more prominent spot just around the corner — but it was a big move. There were at least 10,000 new books on the shelves, Angela estimated, and that wasn't even counting the used inventory.

Boxing up all of the books for such a short jaunt didn't make sense, but the small staff also couldn't hoof everything over on their own. The solution? A book brigade.

On a muggy Sunday afternoon, more than 60 volunteers turned out to pass Moon Palace's inventory person-by-person, down the block and around the corner to the new, waiting shelves.

Including water and doughnut breaks, the brigade managed to transport 10,000 books in a little over three hours. When there was a genre shift — when the stock moved from children's books to adult fiction to biography — they passed the information down the line in a giant game of telephone: "Here comes fiction! Fiction coming!"

For Naomi Hospodarsky and Eren Sutherland, who turned out to help, passing the books was a great way to discover new titles.

"Every stack that goes by, I'm like: I want to read that one! And that one!" Hospodarsky said.

For Sutherland, it brought back memories of a book brigade in 2008, when floodwaters hit Iowa City. Sutherland worked at the main branch of the library there at the time.

"We had to evacuate special collections up two stories," Sutherland recalled. "This is better. Less floodwaters. More doughnuts."

Thanks to the volunteer brigade, Moon Palace opened as planned this morning in its new digs on Minnehaha Avenue.