Interview with a Bookstore: Magers & Quinn
A Store with a Dedicated Heraldry & Chivalry(!) Section
Magers and Quinn was opened in the summer of 1994, by Denny Magers, who has been the sole owner for 21 years. Before Magers and Quinn, he’d purchased a small antiquarian bookstore near the University of Minnesota that was not infrequently compared to the bookstore in The Neverending Story. Looking for more bookselling opportunities, Magers saw the space in the Uptown neighborhood and decided to open another store, Magers and Quinn Booksellers (his paternal and maternal family names). Magers and Quinn Booksellers has been Uptown’s favorite destination for reading material ever since.
What’s your favorite section in the store?
Jessi (retail manager) Heraldry & Chivalry, because once you know where the section is in the store then you are officially an expert browser or employee in the know.
Ann (events coordinator) Firefighting. Usually the smallest section in the store—sometimes nonexistent—but arguably the most important.
Emily F (bookseller): Women’s Studies!
Dave G (bookseller): The basement! It’s quiet.
If you had infinite space what would you add?
Annie (assistant manager): There’s a new luxury apartment building nearby that has a pool/hot tub on the second-floor patio that juts out over the sidewalk. It’s very exhibitionist and un-Minnesotan, but if we installed one of those I’m pretty sure it would be the first hot tub reading room in the nation.
Emily B (bookseller): The Mitford Sisters section. It’d only take up a foot of shelf space, for sure, but it would be a foot of shelf space catered exclusively to my politically discomfiting and sort of shameful special interest.
The majority of the staff agrees that a bar stocked with Minneapolis craft brews would be an enhancement.
What do you do better than any other bookstore?
Gary (community outreach and B2B sales director): New books, used books, rare and collectable books, our events, our outreach and bulk sales, etc… we do it all and we do it well!
Beth (assistant manager): Make recommendations, of course! I don’t think people realize how fun this is and how happy it makes us.
Emily F: I like to think that our bookstore has a charming, romantic quality that projects from the “Beauty and the Beast” ladders, the wide front windows and the rare books nestled upstairs. We put on some great events, too. I was extremely proud to be a part of the Nick Offerman event we pulled off midsummer. There was a lot of sweating involved, but it was totally worth it.
Who’s your favorite regular?
Emily B: Arm surgery girl. I don’t know her name. She must have broken her arm badly in the winter because she’s had a number of surgeries since… and she’s only ever been in the store after a surgery. Whatever they pump into her to dull the pain, it inspires an insatiable urge for books. She usually gets a foot-high stack of picture books from the sale cart and makes the guy who drives her to and from the hospital carry it. I love her.
Ann: This guy comes in every couple of weeks and asks for a recommendation—of anything. He will read literally anything you recommend. He holds a special place in my heart because he actually bought, read, and (supposedly) liked The Monk by Matthew Lewis.
Emily B: I also love that guy. He makes me feel IMMENSELY POWERFUL.
What’s the craziest situation you’ve ever had to deal with in the store?
Jessi: The time Jordan Matter (the photographer behind Dancers Among Us) visited the store and had a professional dancer pose on our VERY precarious art wall ladder, upside down. It was terrifying but the photos are great.
Beth: Guy came in looking for a book, which was about WWII, main character was a Nazi—but you don’t find that out until the end. He was adamant about these details and said we should know this right away because it was a classic! An hour later (and after asking for help from three other employees), we figured out it was All Quiet On the Western Front, which is set during WWI and the main character is a German which you know throughout the whole book.
What’s your earliest memory about visiting a bookstore as a child?
Gary: My first bookstore memory is with my grandma. I must have been five years old. She bought me a Lassie book! I can still remember like it was yesterday, and I am old.
Beth: My small town didn’t have a bookstore, but I lived for the Scholastic Book Fairs!
If you weren’t running/working at a bookstore what would you be doing?
Aaron (bookseller, buyer): Driving a bus.
Annie: As an English major, I’m told I have few marketable skills. So, yeah, maybe driving a bus. Or attempting to brew beer and raise sheep in northern England.
Ann: Lying on the beach.
Emily F: Wallowing away in a hole somewhere.
What’s been the biggest surprise about running/working in a bookstore?
Beth: The times we are asked: There was this book, it was red (or blue or green), it had a picture of a girl (or flower or mountain) on the front, and it was right here (or there or on the front table) when I came in about six weeks (or three months or a year) ago? And we FIND IT!!! We always underestimate the amount of information we’ve retained.
Annie: I don’t know about working at bookstores in general, but I am constantly surprised by the strength of the reading community in Minneapolis. There are readers and shoppers to support 28 independent bookstores (and some great indie comic shops as well) in the Twin Cities, which give us all a strong sense of security and purpose despite the challenges of the business.
SLIDESHOW: Magers & Quinn Staff Recommendations