Uncle Hugo’s Progress Report

Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s as they looked before the fire.

Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore owner Don Blyly sent an update to subscribers on July 9 telling them what he’s learned so far about possibly rebuilding his two stores.

Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore and Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore were burned by vandals on May 30 while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis.

The GoFundMe started to Help Save Uncle Hugo’s has raised $158,130 to date.

REQUIREMENTS TO REBUILD. Blyly has found it difficult just getting bids on the demolition and construction work that will be needed.

Don Blyly

In order to figure out what it will cost to rebuild in the old location, I will first have to get the old building demolished and the debris hauled away.  I tried to get 4 bids, and only 2 companies were willing to give me bids, and they were not in agreement about what was possible.  The front of the building, which housed Uncle Hugo’s, was built around 1915, with a basement.  The back of the building where Uncle Edgar’s was located, was on a concrete slab, and was built in the 1950’s.  The back office and storage area was also built on a concrete slab and was built around 1980.  When I bought the Uncle’s building, there was a very attractive 3-story brick building om the south side, with their brick fire wall flush against my brick fire wall.  That building burned around 1992, and I tried to see if I could purchase the lot for parking, but the city wanted the dental clinic to go onto the lot instead.  (Much more property tax from a dental clinic than from a parking lot.)

When the dental clinic was built in 1995, the dentist got the city to agree that he could used my fire wall as his fire wall, saving him a lot of money for construction, and allowing the interior dimensions of his clinic to be a bit bigger.  This worked fine until the Uncle’s building burned.  There was only about an inch between my fire wall and his sheet rock wall, which he constructed right on his property line.  All of the demolition people were very nervous about taking down my fire wall without doing major damage to the dental clinic, and this no doubt contributed to only two companies being willing to give me bids, and how high the bids were.  So I spent 5 days (in very hot, very humid weather) with a hammer and crowbar taking down about 60 feet of fire wall.  (And also got sunburned for the first time in over 50 years.)  That section had mortar than was over 100 years old and came apart fairly easily.  There is still about 40 more feet of fire wall along the back room, where there is about a 5 inch gap between the buildings, but that section is concrete blocks and much newer mortar, and I’m not going to try that by hand.

I’ve received different stories from the demo people about the basement.  Some thought they could scoop everything out, leave the basement walls in place, and leave the hole in place (fenced off, of course) until I wanted to rebuild.  Some thought that once the support beams were removed that go from the front basement wall to the back basement wall, all the basement walls would collapse into the basement, causing the sidewall to also collapse and perhaps causing the dental clinic foundation to collapse. Some thought the city would force me to take out all the basement walls even if they were sturdy enough to be left in place.  Some thought that the city would force me to fill the basement hole with fill dirt immediately even if I wanted to rebuild with a basement (at a cost of an extra $30,000 to haul in the dirt, and then even more later to haul the dirt away again).

The back of the store is on concrete slabs.  If all the debris could be removed without cracking the slabs, then the removal cost would be a lot less, and the rebuilding expense would be a lot less because new concrete block walls could be put up on top of the existing slabs.  There was disagreement among the demo people about how likely it was that the concrete slabs could be saved, except that if the city forced me to remove the basement walls then it would be impossible to save the slabs.

Much of the debris removal cost would involve how many truckloads of debris would be hauled away and where it could be taken.  Most of the debris consists of wet, partially burned books, magazines, and bookcases, but all the demo people wanted to treat everything as hazardous waste full of lead, arsenic, and asbestos, to be hauled away to a hazardous waste dump at a much higher cost.

After the debris is all gone, after I know if the basement hole is allowed to remain, after I know if the concrete slabs survived, then I’ll be able to get estimates on rebuilding in the old location.  I’ve just barely begun looking at the real estate market to see about the possibility of buying an existing building as another option.  But I can see that the city’s push to tear down single story buildings along major streets to be replaced by multi-story buildings has had an impact on the availability and pricing of older single story buildings.

DOING BUSINESS WITHOUT A STORE. Blyly has resumed doing some business, limited to online and mail orders. (Order t-shirts here.)

I’ve also been working on mail orders. Some people have been ordering just shirts, some people have been ordering just books, and some people have been ordering a mixture of shirts and books.  I still have a lot of shirts left, but not necessarily the sizes and colors that are being ordered.  Thirteen days ago I ordered another 300 shirts, a combination of special orders for odd sizes, shirts to fill orders that had come in for sizes and colors that I had run out of, and some extra copies of some of the more popular sizes and colors.  I contacted the shirt printer yesterday to see when we might expect delivery.  He said that the supply chain for blank shirts has been in very bad shape since the covid-19 problem started.  I still have not received a few shirts from our mid-May order.  He says that by this weekend he’ll be able to give me an estimate of when he’ll be able to deliver most of the recent order.  As soon as I get those shipped, I’ll be ready to send him an order for another 250-300 shirts.

I ordered a bunch of Lois McMaster Bujold books from Baen Books a week ago and received about a third of the order a couple of days ago, but no sign of the rest of the order.

I ordered a bunch of her books from NESFA Press  11 days ago, but they still have not shown up.  The Orphans of Raspay will supposedly be delivered by UPS later today.  As soon as Orphans shows up, I haul those and whatever else has shown up by that time out to Lois’ place for signatures, and then be able to start filling a lot of orders.  

I should also be receiving today a bunch of other books by other authors that people have ordered, so I’ll be able to concentrate on filling mail orders for a while instead of hanging out at the ruins of the Uncles getting more sunburn.

5 thoughts on “Uncle Hugo’s Progress Report

  1. I had the thought that the remains of the books, magazines, and bookcases could be turned into mulch…and maybe even sold as such, once dried a bit.

  2. Given the hazardous waste comments from the demolition people, there may be concern that the old construction of the building & roof incorporated asbestos, and that debris might be mixed into the books. Which means mulching would be impossible.

  3. Cassy B. says Given the hazardous waste comments from the demolition people, there may be concern that the old construction of the building & roof incorporated asbestos, and that debris might be mixed into the books. Which means mulching would be impossible.

    If it was built before the Sixties, it’s an absolute given that it has asbestos in the building materials. And removing the debris will mean disposing of it in a licensed disposal site which is a costly endeavour.

  4. My sister and I both ordered shirts. They look great! (The purple is especially fetching.)
    Thanks, Don.

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