The future of Don Blyly’s Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores might be in south Minneapolis, or even Richfield, he told subscribers in his November update. The two stores were burned by vandals on May 30 while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis. He has since determined to sell the lot and reopen elsewhere. The Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund at GoFundMe has raised $177,708 to date.
Here are the highlights.
An assist from the local newspaper changed the tune of the city’s obstructionist regulators:
The debris removal was halted at about 95% completed for over a month while we tried to negotiate a new plan with the city. I finally went to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune with the story of what had been going on, with lots of documentation. The reporter talked to several other sources to confirm what I had told him, and then he started talking to people at the city. The city learned late Thursday afternoon that the story was going to run in the Sunday paper. Friday morning the city suddenly decided to be much more cooperative. It still took awhile to work out details, but the debris removal under the new plan was completed about a week and a half ago.
Then it took some jawboning of the construction company to finish their work properly:
Next, the site needed to be fenced, both to satisfy the city and under my sales agreement to the dentist. The fencing went up yesterday, but the work crew left a 1.5 foot gap between the bottom of the fence and the ground at the corner where it meets the sidewalk. I told the work crew that this was not acceptable. I was told that it was impossible to have the fence meet the ground at that location. I went home and called the supervisor and explained the situation and told him it was not acceptable. He told me that it was impossible to make the fence meet the ground in that corner. I told him that I guess we would have to see if the Better Business Bureau agreed with him or with me. He got very upset and told me that mentioning the Better Business Bureau was a very counter-productive thing for me to do, but he would go take a look the next day at the area I was complaining about. I went over to the site this morning with a sketch pad and a tape measure to document the “impossible” problem. I pulled up just as the fencing company truck pulled away. They had done a first rate job of fixing the “impossible “ problem.
There’s a to-do list before the sale of the lot can go through.
Now I have to wait for the bills from the debris removal contractor and the fencing contractor, pay the bills, and get lien waivers from both of the contractors, and we can have the closing on the sale of the lot to the dentist. At that point I won’t have to drive over to the old site to shovel the sidewalk for the empty lot any more, as I have been doing (although none of the other owners of burnt out businesses have been doing that, and the city doesn’t seem to care). Once I have the dentist’s money in my bank account, I will be able to move forward more aggressively with looking for a new building to buy.
Blyly has sifted the area real estate market and has his eye on several possibilities. The best case scenario might allow him to reopen in June. If not…,
I’ve been looking through hundreds of commercial real estate for-sale listings on the internet for the entire metro area, have driven out to look at about 15 possible locations in south Minneapolis, northeast Minneapolis, Columbia Heights, western St. Paul, and Richfield. I’ve found 3 sites that I consider good potential new sites for the Uncles, two in south Minneapolis and one in Richfield. I like the Richfield location best, but it would require extensive remodeling. Once I have the dentist’s money in my account, I’ll hire a real estate agent, have an architect and general contractor go through the Richfield location with me and give me an idea of how much it would cost to make it ready for Uncles use, and see if the numbers will work. If the numbers will work, we might be able to re-open in June. If the numbers don’t work, then I’ll look to see what else has come on the market and then move on to my next best option.
Blyly is selling off his personal collection of books, with the money going toward reopening the Uncles.
I’ve been listing books on Abebooks.com, although more slowly than I had expected. Some are signed copies that assorted people (mainly authors) have donated since the fire, but most are hardcover and trade paperback books from my personal library. I started at the top of one the bookcases on the first floor (which happened to be part way through Avram Davidson) and I’ve been working through the alphabet (and got most of the way through Harlan Ellison yesterday). I’ve sold a lot of my Philip K. Dick books and signed Thomas Disch books, plus British David Eddings hardcovers and assorted other random books. You can view the Uncles’ Abebooks listing by going to: https://www.abebooks.com/uncle-hugos-sf%2funcle-edgars-mystery-minneapolis/3358938/sf and click “View this seller’s items”.
He advises customers:
If you only want to buy one book, it costs you the same whether you go through Abebooks or directly through me, but if you want to buy multiple books you will save on shipping by buying directly from me. [E-mail: UncleHugo@aol.com] The money from selling my personal library will go into the pot of money to try to re-open the Uncles.