Save Uncle Hugo’s – October 2021 Update

A future location where Don Blyly can reopen Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s is difficult to find even though he continues looking at possibilities, he told subscribers in his October update. His two stores were burned by vandals a year ago while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis. Blyly has since cleared and sold that lot, and is looking to reopen elsewhere assisted by an insurance payment and the Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund at GoFundMe which has raised $189,118 to date.

Don Blyly

Here are the highlights of Don Blyly’s October 3 “How’s Business?” update.

Blyly tells how he evaluates prospects, and an in-person visit to one of them.

I continue to check the internet listings for commercial real estate for sale at least once per week and often twice per week.    In the last 3 months I found one listing that way which I thought was worth driving out to take a look at, but after looking it over I decided it was not worth consideration.    But customers have also sent me information about buildings that they thought might work.  One customer who lives near Midway let me know about a building for sale with parking about a block and a half west of Midway.  I investigated on the internet and found it listed there as a former dental clinic for lease, not for sale.    It listed 28 parking spaces, and it was clear that the former dental clinic had problems with most of the spaces being taken by people other than their patients.  It was assessed for taxes at more than 3 times as much as the old Uncles building, which meant it was probably a lot more than I could afford, and the annual property tax bill would also be way too high.  But I drove over to take a look at it. 

The sign on the building claimed it was for sale or lease.  The front door lead to a small lobby. and then either a short flight of stairs to the basement or a long flight of stairs to the upper floor.  So an elevator would need to be installed for handicapped customers, for UPS deliveries of books, and for customers bringing in large batches of used books.  I decided not to even ask how much it would cost. 

Somebody else let me know about a building in St. Paul’s Lowertown that was about the right size (if Uncle Hugo’s was on the first floor and Uncle Edgar’s was on the second floor) and the price was within reach.  But the only rest rooms were on the second floor, so either an elevator would be needed or I’d have to add rest rooms on the first floor (which would probably have made the first floor too small for Uncle Hugo’s).    I drove over to take a look at it, I found that the drive was much longer than I was interested in, there were three parking meters near the store and all other parking meters were a block or more away.    There were no parking spaces for me or for employees unless we wanted to pay for parking in a parking ramp a couple of blocks away.  And there were four people who looked like they were homeless who were camped out next to the front door.    I decided not to pursue it any futher.

Blyly also shared insights about the business environment for booksellers, which is affected by publishers’ paper shortages, and a Covid-impacted workforce.

A couple of months ago I received 3 very similar e-mails, one from Ingram (the national book wholesaler), one from the American Booksellers Association, and one from one of the Big Five Publishers.  All of them pointed out all the supply chain problems: paper shortages, printers missing deadlines (partly because of a shortage of workers), a shortage of truck drivers to haul the books from the binderies to the warehouses, a shortage of workers in the warehouses to pick orders, a shortage of truck drivers (again) to pick up the packed orders from the warehouses, the cost of international shipping containers are now 10 times what they were before the pandemic, the cost of international shipping is double what it was a year ago (with almost all books with color for the US being printed in Asia), etc.  The main theme of all three e-mails: If you think things are bad now, just wait for the holiday season.  One of the major publishers has sent out frequent e-mails telling retailers that they had better get in their orders for holiday merchandise before Halloween in order to receive the merchandise in time for the holidays.

The pandemic is also handicapping Blyly’s ability to deliver sales to other countries.

Covid-19 has made it very interesting trying to send mail orders to overseas customers.  Around 139 countries have warned that it is taking longer than usual for mail to be delivered because of fewer postal workers being on the job, and about 29 countries have just been refusing to accept any packages from other countries.  A couple of weeks ago I received a notice that Australia had been refusing to accept first class packages for some time, but now they were also refusing to accept priority mail packages.  I’ve been dealing with a frustrated customer in France, to whom I mailed a book almost two months ago.  The French post office accepted it from the U.S. post office, but both the French post office and customs are very short handed, so the package has been held in a French warehouse until it can be handed over to customs.  Neither I nor the French customer can get the French post office to move the package along.

Read Blyly’s complete update here.         

Blyly continues to sell off his personal collection of books, with the money going toward reopening the Uncles.

I’ve been working seven days per week on listing the books in my personal library on, and I expect today to finish with the authors with a last name starting with L and begin on the authors with a last name starting with M.    You can view the Uncles’ Abebooks listing by going here and clicking “View this seller’s items”. You should be aware that none of the images of the books are supplied by me, but rather are stock images from Abebooks which may or may not be accurate. Also, Abebooks wants to sell books, not necessarily just my books, so they make it easy to accidentally go from viewing the Uncles books to viewing books from hundreds of dealers.

He advises customers:

Abebooks takes a commission on both the price of the book and on the shipping charge, so I make more money if you buy directly from me instead of through Abebooks (email me ([email protected]) with what you want to buy and I’ll explain how to go about it). 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. The money from selling my personal library will go into the pot of money to try to re-open the Uncles.