Coffee and tea and exposed brick. (Oh my!)
Yes there is coffee, yes there is wine and tea and exposed brick. There are also creaky wood floors and shelves upon shelves of more than two thousand titles of fiction and nonfiction that reach ten feet toward the heavens. Be still my heart. This is Milkweed, an independent bookstore located on Washington Avenue in downtown Minneapolis-a subset of indie publisher Milkweed Editions.
This bookstore prides itself in selling books that are mostly published by nonprofit or independent presses and that fit with the environmental and experimental literary mission of Milkweed Editions. It strives to bring a personal touch to the literary experience. Do you live in Minneapolis and need a book stat? A bicycle delivery will have it to your door within an hour or two. (Even during a snowstorm.)
Because Milkweed is located on the first floor of Open Book, the nation’s largest literary center, they receive a lot of foot traffic from their target audience. The 1800s-era warehouse is also home to The Loft Literary Center (which teaches more than 5,000 students annually) the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, a gift shop, a coffee shop and bistro. Writers and readers who live for new poetry, experimental nonfiction, short stories and translations.
It is a relatively new bookstore, just opening five years ago, but Milkweed has thrived despite its obvious competition. Because of the warm community feel it exudes and because of its attention to bringing forth unique finds it continues to do well financially. In a world of Target end cap best sellers, instant ebooks and the deep discounts and free delivery of Amazon, Milkweed finds its niche in offering books outside of the mainstream. You won’t see popular young adult series displayed here or the latest Jack Reacher novel. But you will find Margret Renkl’s beautiful Late Migrations and Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf alongside local rapper Dessa’s My Own Devices.
Vogue magazine even named this bookstore as one of the city's best hidden spots but that may have been before Milkweed recreated this "hidden gem" within the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. Like all airport recreations the original charm and feel is lost in translation but it carries and supports the same writers.
This bookstore feels like home to me because there are some weeks, many, where I spend more time at or near it than I do at my actual home on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. I have taken more classes than I can count there, I meet with my writing group there, I go there to write. For me, this place is worth the long, familiar 1-94 drive.
Also the staff at Milkweed is ready to help you with anything, and I mean anything. . . Although not advertised on their bulletin board or website, manager and Minneapolis veteran bookseller and current manager of Milkweed, Hans Weyandt will even kindly help you find a misplaced purse.
How do I know this?
I just do.