How can you not love a bookstore that has a beagle in its name? Jill and Deane Johnson and their beagle, Kallie, opened Beagle Books & Bindery in 2001, after deciding Park Rapids needed a year-round independent bookstore. In 2007, the Johnsons sold Beagle Books to Bob and Sally Wills, the owners of Sister Wolf Books, a seasonal bookstore in nearby Dorset. Managed by Wills' daughter Jen, Kallie will still make regular appearances--and the dog's birthday is celebrated every August! I loved this smart, funny interview, and my thanks to Beagle Books are profound.
Beagle Books & Bindery 112 Third Street West
Park Rapids, MN 56470
I think I speak for my fellow writers when I ask, what things can we authors do to make things easier for you when we read or do events?
The biggest fear for both of us (author and bookstore) is that no one will show up. If that happens, both of us feel bad and feel like it's "our fault". So anything the author can do to spread the word about an event is so appreciated. I know this is sometimes awkward for an author, but you just never really know what's going to catch the attention of the public out there - you never know "the right person" will learn about an event......
What's the best thing an author ever did?
This may sound silly, but Kevin Kling walked into my little bookstore and gushed with sincere enthusiasm, "WOW!!! WHAT A GREAT BOOKSTORE!"
You offer writers' salons, classes, and all kinds of wonderful things that give your store a real community feel. Can you talk a bit about all of this? What's next up for you?
We don't directly offer classes, etc, but we DO whole-heartedly support our local writers group, local museum, library (which thanks to Legacy funding has been able to offer all kinds of fantastic programming), and a group in our community called Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning. We feel like our community looks to us to help connect them with workshops, classes, etc. I think sometimes people are surprised to see/hear us promote library events. The library is not our enemy or competition. We feel it's important for members of the community to support both the local, independent bookstore and the library. (In fact, Jen is a member of the Friends of the Library and recently finished a term as President).
Please can you tell us about the original Beagle of Beagle books?
Yes! The original beagle is named Kallie. She is still alive, but she is retired :) We keep pictures of her posted in the store. While Kallie was working full time, she often liked to sneak out of the bookstore and visit the meat market. Kallie belongs to the original owners and stayed on at the bookstore for some time after the Johnsons sold Beagle Books to its current owners. While I was working alone one day, Kallie snuck out - to my horror (visions of Kallie getting hit by a car; headlines like: New Management Kills Beloved Mascot). In my panic, I ran next door to the coffee shop and hollered for help. Immediately, customers leaped up and began searching - including some on bike. It wasn't long before Kallie was back in the store. While Kallie no longer regularly comes to Beagle anymore, there is almost always a dog here. Also, dog visitors are welcome.
What three books are you wildly suggesting that everyone read?
Right now, we're crazy about Peter Geye (Safe from the Sea, Lighthouse Road), Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro, and Round House by Louise Erdrich.
What's obsessing you now, and why?
Hmm, not sure if this is what you're looking for - but I'm really pushing to get caught up in the bindery. Once I do, I can start to create book art to sell in the store.
What question didn't I ask that I should have?
I bet you're wondering what my favorite author event we held was ;) The former owners of Beagle, the Johnsons, wrote a book called Little Minnesota, published by Adventure. When we held a book signing/release party, it was the biggest day Beagle Books has EVER had (and yes, that means it beat out Harry Potter and we didn't have to do it at midnight :)) It was just so fun to have the Johnsons on the other side of the counter as authors, to be able to serve as host. The Johnsons have been such great mentors to us. P.S. Little Minnesota outsold 50 Shades this summer ;)