Bikes to books: Boneshakers in Minneapolis


Think “boneshaker” and bicycles come immediately to mind – unless you’re clueless like me and had to resort to Wikipedia to get a glimmer.  What ignited my curiosity was the quest to understand the origin of the name of the newest Minneapolis bookstore.  First I learned about the bicycle derivation – and then I had the delight of exploring Boneshaker Books, right in the Seward Neighborhood, on 23rd just off Franklin, in SE Minneapolis. [See map below]

Boneshaker Books is celebrating their grand opening with an all-out bash on Saturday, January 15.  They will open their doors to shoppers and explorers at 11:00 a.m. That evening there will be a great blast off, featuring pizza and other treats, free and open to all. Visit them at 2002 23rd Avenue South, around the corner from Second Moon.

When I arrived at Boneshaker Books I was far more concerned with bone-chilling than bone-shaking.  My arctic trip to their not-quite-new bookshop had left me grumpy and generally impervious to any good thoughts, much less of bicycles and bookstores.  When I left Boneshakers an hour later, after a wide-ranging chat with collective member Clay Beardshear, I was inspired, energized, open to new ideas – I even had a glimmer of insight into the enigmatic name of the shop and an appreciation of the collaboration that’s working to build this unique bookstore.  And Boneshakers really does plan to offer a bicycle delivery service, as befits their name.

To understand Boneshakers is to go back to its roots at Arise! where the seven members of today’s Boneshaker Books collective got their start as volunteers. They are a mix of professionals, craftspeople and all-round bibliophiles promoting the cause, making a difference in the unique role that Arise! once played on the community scene as a source of progressive, non-traditional, unique reading resources.  When Arise! was forced to close, these seven entrepreneurs first considered purchasing the Arise! building to continue the mission.  For several months they hosted the Storefront in a Box programs at their South Lyndale site, maintaining throughout that the demise of Arise! meant an “unacceptable loss” to this community.

At some point, a new idea took shape, the opportunity to create a bookstore born of but not housed at the Arise! site.  Boneshaker Books soon saw the opportunity renovate a beautiful building as they built an independent organization and business. They are committed to a collection of fiction and nonfiction titles that include  history and politics, economics, race and sexual relations – with a concerted eye to children’s books that escape the made-for-TV genre that permeates the chains.  The building itself is a model of recycling, re-use and environmental concern – a beautiful hardwood floor was once a basketball court, shelving hand-crafted by Clay Beardshear is as beautiful as it is sturdy, windows, doors, walls – basically everything – is recycled and elegant.

The all-volunteer staff at Boneshaker Books is committed to the power of the printed – and read – word, and to serving the Twin Cities with a unique mix of book stock and creative programming. Beardshear was far more interested in the future of the printed book and of Boneshakers than he was with whining about the impact of e-books and other technologies, or even the heavy hand of the biggie publishers.

One area of Boneshakers is reserved for the Women’s Prison Book Project, a program that too many of us had assumed was no longer.  I was happy to learn that it was not dead, but only sleeping, and hope to report on this project in the future.

The Seward neighborhood and adventurous readers throughout the Twin Cities have a grand new option.