Don Blyly Interviewed About
Uncle Hugo’s Fire

Don Blyly shared a lot of new information about the future prospects of Uncle Hugo’s SF Bookstore in an interview with the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal: “His bookstores burned. Don Blyly wants to keep selling”.

The amount of loss:

“The Uncles,” as Blyly refers to the stores, contained over 100,000 used and new volumes when they burned. There were rare signed editions and decades of collectibles. He estimated the retail value at around $1 million.

What he expects from insurance:

Both his inventory and his building were insured, and Blyly said he’s been assured by his attorney that the policy will cover the loss. But that hasn’t erased his worries.

Blyly’s old policy expired May 23, and while he renewed the policy, he hadn’t yet received an invoice for his first payment when the fire hit.

“So I’m rather nervous about this,” he said.

Like many retailers, Blyly was already struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic, which had prevented him from opening his stores to walk-in traffic since March. Four of his six employees had gone on unemployment, returning to work not long before the stores were destroyed.

While Blyly worked long hours to fill mail orders alone during the shutdown, cashflow was limited. He estimated he owes publishers about $50,000 for books delivered before the fire.

Why renting doesn’t appear to be an alternative to rebuilding.

“I have completely given up on the idea of finding a place to rent to get back into operation quickly,” Blyly added, expecting that vacant commercial storefronts will soon be in high demand.

Ultimately, he’d like to rebuild in the same locations he’s occupied since 1984.

“I’ll have to see whether or not the insurance company’s estimate of what it would take to rebuild it is close enough to the architect’s estimate,” he said.

For now, he’ll carry on as a mail order business.

In the meantime, Blyly plans to run a small mail order business out of his home. He’ll start by selling Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s branded T-shirts and sweatshirts; he recently ordered a two-year supply.

It will give him something to live on until he rebuilds. If he rebuilds.

“A lot of authors have offered to send me signed books, so I’ll be selling signed books on the internet,” he added. “And I’m going to start selling off my personal library one book at a time.”

GOFUNDME UPDATE. As of June 3, the “Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund” has raised $60,160 from over 1,100 donors.

FLASHBACK. Here’s a video interview with Don Blyly from 2011.

[Thanks to Kathryn Sullivan for the story.]

5 thoughts on “Don Blyly Interviewed About
Uncle Hugo’s Fire

  1. I wish there was an easy way to help replenish his supply of used books. I, for one, would be willing to contribute some lightly read books that I’m pretty sure would be saleable.

  2. I inquired about exactly this. Here was the response:

    Visitor Message from Sam Blyly-Strauss:
    Hi,
    That’s a question that we’ve been getting alot. Right now, the best answer
    we have is ‘probably, but not just yet’. Need to find a location to store
    donated books before we could accept anything. We’ll be posting updates on
    the Facebook page, the main web site, and the GoFundMe when we know more.
    Thanks.

  3. Don’s daughter Mina posted on Facebook that she is starting a project “about the important role that the stores and/or my dad played in people’s lives over the decades in the science fiction community broadly speaking. To help with processing and to honor people’s memories, I have asked my dad whether it would be okay to document them and make some sort of video that can be shared back to the Uncle Hugo’s/Uncle Edgar’s community. My dad has agreed that this is a good idea, so I will be working on this project over the summer.

    “If you or someone you know would like to contribute favorite stories, memories, images, etc. to the project you can send them to unclesstoriesproject@gmail.com Please feel free to pass this information on to others that you think may be interested in participating. My hope is that this process will be helpful to those in the community who are hurting…”

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