You won’t find “The Da Vinci Code,” Harlequin romance novels or the “Dummies” series of how-to books in Garrison Keillor’s new bookstore, and if you find the latest John Grisham novel, it could be on the “Quality Trash” table.
The man behind “A Prairie Home Companion” wasn’t around Wednesday when Common Good Books opened in a basement nook in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood, but his literary tastes were on display.
There’s a special focus on local and regional authors and Keillor’s favorite poetry. The works of another Keillor favorite, and St. Paul native, F. Scott Fitzgerald, fill an entire shelf.
“We’re not trying to be all things to all people,” said store manager Sue Zumberge. “It’s not because we look down on those; it’s just because you can find them elsewhere.”
Keillor also folded the typical genres of sci-fi, classics, mysteries and thrillers into plain old fiction.
“Reading is reading. Fiction is fiction,” said assistant manager Martin Schmutterer. “We’re not so intent on categorizing good books.”
Keillor, 64, has said he wanted to run an independent bookstore because he likes to “walk into them and sit and read in them.”
It’s been a tough couple of years for independent bookstores in the Twin Cities, with many of them folding due to pressure from big chain stores and online retailers.
However, Stephen Borer, 57, was optimistic that Common Good Books would make it. Why? “Garrison,” Borer said. “Garrison, Garrison, Garrison.”
Dave Brennan, co-director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence at the University of St. Thomas, said Keillor’s bookstore had “a fair chance of success, not a great chance.”
“He probably had more if he had his name attached to it,” Brennan said. “It would create, at least initially, some awareness, and I think people who identify with him and appreciate his talents might be more inclined to shop there.”