Common Good Books in St. Paul has a new owner and a new name, "Next Chapter Booksellers."
St. Paul native Nick Ballas purchased the store that Garrison Keillor put on the market in January.
"I am an avid reader, longtime customer of indie bookstores, a longtime customer of this store, and I was excited to see that it was up for sale," he said during an interview at the store. "I started looking at the business and ended up liking what I saw and then buying the bookstore."
Ballas worked in manufacturing in Asia for a number of years before returning to Minnesota.
While independent bookstores seemed an endangered species a few years ago, the future now looks much brighter. Online retail has undercut the big box bookstores that once threatened the smaller stores, and Ballas says there is clearly a desire among some readers for an in-person experience
"They want to come in. They want to touch and feel the books," he said. "They want to connect with other like-minded people."
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Ballas sees evidence of this at the store. "We have a very loyal customer base and they love to come in and talk to our booksellers and explore different titles, different things to read."
The American Booksellers Association reports that sales have grown about 5 percent over the last year, Ballas said. "So, you are seeing kind of positive trends in the industry which I think bode pretty well for this store. We are the largest store in St Paul. We've got good space and we've the potential to really increase our sales."
The store will be refurbished, and the events calendar revamped. The staff is staying on.
They will celebrate Indie Bookstore Day on April 27 with poets Danez Smith and Mary Moore Easter as guest booksellers. There will also be an open house on May 19.
Ballas said the new name came out of discussions with the staff at the store. "It's forward looking. It's a new chapter in the history of the store, allows us to really focus on the future," he said.
Longtime Common Good manager David Enyeart will stay on in that role and says he's relieved by the sale.
"There was uncertainty and that is not an easy way to live. That's not an easy way to be" he said. "It's great to have everything settled and to know that the store is going to be around for quite a while."
The sale closed on April 1, but the news was kept under wraps until details such as the new name and logo were finalized. Ballas says he will be around the store sometimes, and maybe even help out with customers.
"Sure, from time to time," he smiled. "You know, I'm learning. I'm not sure if they trust me yet with the cash register, but yeah, I'll be out there."
Correction (April 18, 2019): The date of the Indie Bookstore Day celebration was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.