With the sad news that Addendum Books will be closing in July, I thought now might be a good time to update our list of Independent Bookstores. Every time an independent bookstore closes, I feel a little like the part in Peter Pan when Tinkerbell is dying. If only we could just believe enough to keep them open.
The Twin Cities area is home to several wonderful bookstores and, although they are not exactly a place to let your children run unchecked, they can be a low pressure, quiet outing when you would prefer to be indoors. We all know the mall stores, and they are definitely good places to take kids, but this is a list of some independently owned stores to check out. Some — like Red Balloon and Wild Rumpus — specialize in kids books. Others have a more expanded catalog. I know it’s just easier to go to Amazon for our book needs (and if you do, we appreciate you using our affiliate link so we can earn a small commission and keep our site free); however, the experience of these bookstores can’t be beat.
Birchbark books specializes in books about indigenous people, including children’s resources spanning from early grades to high school. They also host various events throughout the year. Watch our calendar for family friendly events.
Boneshaker Books has been on my radar for awhile, but I haven’t had a chance to visit it myself. While they were without a store time for awhile, on June 9, Boneshaker started hosting Madeline & Sam’s Magical Story Time weekly on Saturdays. If you get there before us, let us know what you think.
Common Good Books, like Magers and Quinn, is more geared toward adults — but it does have a children’s section. It is owned by Garrison Keillor. I’m not sure that would mean anything to our kids, but if you are also taking their grandparents, it could be a really big deal. The staff at Common Good is incredibly friendly and they were really great about me ducking in with my four kids when we found ourselves with several hours to kill in St. Paul on a cold evening after everything else in my arsenal had closed. I will be forever grateful to them for that.
Considering this store is in my own neighborhood, it took me altogether too long to get there. Like Common Good Books, it has a very friendly staff. The kids area is tucked in a back corner and kind of feels like a hidden space. You kind of have to wind through stacks of books to find it. This store carries mostly used books, so it is a nice place to discover books you have forgotten from your own childhood that you could now share with your kids.
If you don’t want to deal with city traffic and parking, Excelsior Bay Books is an indie bookseller that is not in the heart of Minneapolis or St.Paul. They also happen to host story trolleys that don’t sell out as fast as the Wild Rumpus events. Since I have not personally visited this store, I would love to hear your feedback.
If the Red Balloon is Gianna’s magical place, Magers & Quinn is mine. Although it only opened a couple years before I moved to Minnesota, it felt like it had been there forever. It was my favorite place to hide out. The smell and feel of shelves and tables of full of old books just relaxed me. I don’t think of it as a kid’s bookstore, but it does have a nice-szied children’s section, and there are always surprises to be found.
I believe that Moon Palace is the only store on this list with a cafe. Story times are not as consistent as the two exclusively-children’s bookstores, but they do offer them.
Red Balloon Bookshop is an FFTC favorite. You can read about why Gianna considers it her magical place here. The Red Balloon offers the most author visits of all the stores and the most options for story hours. It is a bright roomy space, whereas most independent bookstores I’ve visited are more cluttered and dimly lit (a good thing in my introverted world). When visiting with kids in tow, the bright roomy space may feel easier to take on.
Wild Rumpus is the rogue bookstore of the bunch — complete with chickens and chinchillas. The store is staffed with fun people who can make personal recommendations for books, have personal opinions of authors who are visiting (not just the standard press release stuff), and a tiny kid-size door that is just too tempting to not enter. On the downside, their calendar upkeep is inconsistent and often last minute, so it is hard to plan for author events. We highly recommend joining their email list if this is a store you would like to visit often.