Once upon a time in the late 1970’s I discovered a small independent bookstore at the corner of Franklin Avenue and 4th Avenue South in Minneapolis called Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore. Behind the counter was a tall man named Scott Imes. Scott was, simply put, a genius. There wasn’t a question about science fiction or fantasy that Scott couldn’t answer, and through him I was introduced to a universe of authors and stories I never knew existed. This December 11th marks the tenth anniversary of Scott’s passing and I always think about him at this time of the year and remember ‘that tall guy who knew everything’ who opened my head to new worlds.
In 1984, owner Don Blyly moved Uncle Hugo’s, and its mystery bookstore brother Uncle Edgar’s, to its current location at 2864 Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, about a mile south of downtown and, for twenty-seven years, Blyly has continued to serve the Twin Cities as a full-service independent bookseller. The “Uncles” boast an impressive selection of new book titles and a floor-to-ceiling used book inventory in both genres. They stock titles by authors known and unknown and their first-class, knowledgeable staff will – if you let them – open the doors to literary worlds you never imagined existed. The Uncles also offer services such as maintaining customer wants lists, a quarterly newsletter, a frequent-buyer discount program, a mail-order service and host many in-store events.
Sadly, life is difficult for the Uncles. An old building, rising property taxes, a large drop in traditional book sales and a corresponding surge in e-books, have all conspired to hurt business. Thankfully, for readers and independent bookstore lovers, the Uncles continue to hold on.
There’s DisneyWorld and there’s Graceland, but here in Minneapolis there’s the literary paradise known as Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore.