Minneapolis SF Bookstore Burned, Another Vandalized

Two Minneapolis science fiction landmarks were caught up in the wave of vandalism that struck the city amid protests against the death of George Floyd. Don Blyly’s Uncle Hugo’s bookstore has been burned, and Greg Ketter’s DreamHaven was broken into and damaged.

Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s in 2010.

Uncle Hugo’s, in business since 1974, and neighboring mystery bookstore Uncle Edgar’s since 1980 (also burned), are located near the corner of Lake and Chicago, Uncle Hugo’s is the nation’s oldest surviving sf bookstore.  

Owner Don Blyly told Facebook followers:

Friends: I’ve gone past heartsick into angry. This is from Don this morning: Hi Folks,
There was a call from the security company around 3:30 this morning that the motion detector was showing somebody in the building. I threw on clothes and headed over there. When I was 2 blocks away I received a call that the smoke detectors were showing smoke in the store. Every single building on both sides of Chicago was blazing and dozens of people dancing around. As I pulled into the dentist’s lot I could see that flames were leaping out the front windows of the Uncles. It looked to me like they had broken every window on the front of the Uncles and then squirted accelerant through each broken window. It looked hopeless to me, but I went around to the back door to see if I could get to a fire extinguisher. As soon as I opened the back door a wave of very thick black smoke poured out, so I quickly closed the door again… Since Chicago Ave. was full of dancing rioters, broken glass, and flaming debris, I went down the alley and took Lake St. home. There were blocks of Lake St. where every building was blazing. No sign of any cops, national guard troops, or any help.

I’m pretty sure the insurance policy excludes damage from a civil insurrection, so I suspect I won’t get a cent for either the building or the contents.

I am starting to investigate the best crowdsourcing to rebuild. Any donations – well – I’ll need to find where to send them

Located about two miles away, Greg Ketter’s Dreamhaven Books, Comics and Art was vandalized but not destroyed. Glass was broken and bookcases turned over. 

DreamHaven last night.

DreamHaven’s Wendy Comeau said on Facebook:

We have a crew at DreamHaven. They smashed the front door, came in and smashed a lot of other glass, tried to bash their way into an empty cash box, and tried to set the store on fire. They took a few things, but so much was tossed around that it will be a while before we can figure it out.

Lots of cleaning is happening, glass slivers are everywhere. If anybody nearby has an industrial vacuum cleaner, that might be good for glass slivers.

Right now, we’re trying to get some cleaning done and not answering the phone, but feel free to swing by and chip in. Many thanks to everybody who already have.

DreamHaven boarded up. Photo by Oliver Grudem.

[Thanks to Joyce Scrivner and Joe Sherry for the story.]

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23 thoughts on “Minneapolis SF Bookstore Burned, Another Vandalized

  1. The “Uncle Hugo’s” GoFund being run by a guy in NJ is UNAUTHORIZED. Don’t donate, please.

  2. THe gentleman that started it just announced that it was paused while the owner looked into doing one.
    But from what I could see, he did it out of a love for books and this particular store.

  3. Brinn shopped and sold at both places. If a legit Go Fund me is set up I’ll be donating!

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  5. This is a punch in the gut. I first went to the Twin Cities in the winter of ’75-’76 as an Iowa State engineering co-op student working for 3M. My older sister Pat was also co-opping then; we shared an apartment on the east side of St. Paul. She’d been to Uncle Hugo’s at least once already. I’m not sure we made it to the store during that session, but I know I got there by myself some time in the fall of ’76. Kept riding the buses crosstown every now and then during my remaining co-op sessions, attended Minicon in ’78. After I graduated in ’79 I’d only get to the Uncles once a year, sometime over the Easter weekend, but it was a major event in my book-buying year. I last attended Minicon/hit the Uncles in 2004, but have done occasional mail orders since. I’ll be looking for info on any legit fundraising effort that gets put together; I owe Don for years of great and patient customer service and shelves full of books I love.

  6. My visits to the Uncles had tapered off over the years as I switched to reading primarily eBooks, but I still tried to get there periodically and they were still a huge part of my genre life. At a rough guess, 60-70% of what’s on my shelves was originally on their shelves. When the time comes, I’ll happily done money and/or books.

  7. Uncle Hugo’s used to sponsor Doctor Who on the local PBS, that’s how I first heard about it. My first fender-bender was in a nearby parking lot one icy Minnesota winter. I moved away long ago, but when I’d return to visit family & friends, I’d always make a pit-stop & purchase at Uncle Hugo’s.

    Naturally I didn’t know George Floyd. But my Twin Cities are diminished immeasurably by his death & its circumstances, including the loss of this cultural institution. RIP.

  8. Damn. Living 700 miles from Minneapolis made my trips to Uncle Hugo’s and Dreamhaven few and far between, but anytime I was in the area they were a must. Please let us know when the official fund drives are opened.

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  15. This is what I said on Reddit about this incident:

    My take on this?

    I’m a black dude who loves science fiction (literature, TV shows, movies, comic books, video games, toys, model kits)-essentially, the whole thing. And I don’t like to see bookstores be burned down. But this happend due to a lot of factors, namely how capitalism is, racism causing a tragic event which resulted in this store burning down, and (related to the first point mentioned) how the economic system rewards certain businesses and disregards others, especially when said other is independent.

    A store like this should have been in the main downtown district of Minneapolis, but where is it located? In a working class area populated by black people who might not appreciate such a store in their neighborhood. Even though the people who did this are outside instigators, this is a point that has to be acknowledged, like it or not. This store could be in the main downtown district, but due to how high the rents are, it has to be in areas that it shouldn’t be, while nothing but chain stores are in said main downtown districts-the same chains that are in every downtown district in the United States-and also here in Canada. A British organization has made a quite comprehensive study of this phenomenon, and what’s it’s doing to the character of the main downtown districts of England (what’s said in it also relates to what’s happening in North America at large.) If anybody wants to be concerned for this store and others like it there needs to be an acknowledgement of this, and why bookstores are closing across the continent due to high rents, as well as being forced out in to the inner suburbanized areas, as in a few cases here in Toronto.

    As to the main issue here, the reason behind the riot that destroyed the store must be dealt with; a black man was chokeholded to death by cops. That has to be faced, and unfortunately for those here that care about this store’s destruction, it’s going to trump (no pun intended) said feeling about the store, (probably) even among many fans of science fiction & fantasy, and particularly fans of color. It’s not a good outcome, but it’s most likely going to be the feeling about it (of course, I could be wrong about it, but something tells me this is going to happen, especially considering that right-wing sites like The Federalist were the ones to report it so much.) Another thing that needs to be addressed is how stores like this one not run by black people are regarded by the inhabitants of black neighborhoods like this one (what happens to the pizza place in Do The Right Thing comes to mind.)

    I do hope that this store can recover, and that it can be selling books again, but I’d also like that the sci-fi fans concerned about the store (and others like it) will try to understand what factors played a part in it burning down, and also why independent businesses like it can’t ever get the support they need to stay open or be in the main districts of a city, but are located in places far away from them due to high rent costs.

  16. I don’t understand why you think this business should have been located in the main downtown business district.

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  19. @P.J. Evans, that’s all behind what I said, and why I said what I said, and also why I posted the link to that article about Clone Town Britain and how the same thing is happening here in North America. Small, independent stores like this one should be in the main street of a city, and not in an area like this one, especially when tensions could get high in a situation like this one. ‘The way that things are’ needs to be challenged, and changed.

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