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Plot twist: Young book shop owners fall in love with old library

Andy and Anna Smith , who own Garden Party Books and Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse in Rochester, unexpectedly fell in love with historic former library building in Zumbrota and now plan to open a second book store in it.

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Andy and Anna Smith , who own Garden Party Books and Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse in Rochester, unexpectedly fell in love with historic former library building in Zumbrota and now plan to open a second book store in it.
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ZUMBROTA — In an unexpected plot twist, a young couple that opened a used book shop in Rochester, is now planning to open a second store in a 113-year-old former library in nearby Zumbrota.

“We were not looking for this at all,” said Andy Smith of the new chapter for he and his wife, Anna. “We accidentally stumbled upon the beautiful building.”

Flashing back to October, the Smiths opened Garden Party Books at 602 Seventh St. NW. It is located near the Smiths’ other Rochester business, Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, at 619 Sixth Ave. NW.

Garden Party’s business model is that people can donate unwanted books in return for discount vouchers. That proved to be more successful than anticipated and the Smiths soon had more books than shelf space.

That was the cue for Rochester Realtor Buck Beeman, who lined up the Sixth Avenue space for them, to point out the historic former library building he was selling in Zumbrota.

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The classic building at 310 East Ave. was built in 1907-1908 with funds donated by philanthropist and titan of industry Andrew Carnegie. In recent years, local artist Marie Marvin acquired the building and turned it into Crossings at Carnegie, an art gallery with classes and camps.

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After many years of creating an art community around the space, Marvin closed the main gallery in September 2019 and started looking for a buyer for the building. She continues to offer Crossings art and pottery classes in the lower level of the building.

Beeman took the curious Smiths on a tour of the ornate structure and introduced them to Marvin.

“Not only did we fall in love with the city and the building itself, we just really hit it off with Marie. We were so impressed by what she had done for the community in this building. That made us, even against our instincts, decide to make the leap and purchase the building,” said Andy Smith.

On Feb. 1, they purchased the building for $150,000 with the plan to turn the main floor into a book store and lease the lower level to Marvin to continue her classes and camps.

Smith says they hope to open the new store under the name of the Zumbrota Literary Society by at least April. The Zumbrota Literary Society is the name of the group that originally petitioned Carnegie for the funds to build the library.

“It’s a much grander room than our quirky Rochester space. It has tall ceilings with the original built-in library shelves …We're going for classic library feel with things like leather couches,” he said of the plans for the space.

Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in "Heard on the Street." Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger . You can call him at 507-285-7798.

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Jeff Kiger writes a daily column, "Heard on the Street," in addition to writing articles about local businesses, Mayo Clinic, IBM, Hormel Foods, Crenlo and others. He has worked in Rochester for the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Jeff at 507-285-7798 or jkiger@postbulletin.com.
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