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It's 'Open': An Open Book replaces Borealis Books

Photo by Brittin Roberts From left, An Open Book owners John and Gillette Kempf, boutique owner Gracie Meyer, Cele Olson, and Shari Olson of Harvest Thyme Bistro share stories at the naming of the old JC Penney to the new Bernauer Building.

Borealis Books is back -- under a new name and with new neighbors.

In an age where local bookstores struggle between the rock of the Great Recession and the hard place of Internet sales, Wadena's downtown Borealis Books had to shut its doors for a different reason -- a pipe burst on Feb. 9, causing the loss of 6,000 books and closing the store through the rest of February and March.

Store owner Gillette Kempf, however, saw an opportunity to reopen the store at the old JCPenney building across the street under the identity of "An Open Book" on April 1.

"Minnesota Historical Society has a publishing imprint called Borealis Books, so I've been skating on the thin line from getting a copyright infringement letter for the last two and a half years," she explained.

As for the choice of the new name, she said, "It's an eclectic bookstore and always has been, and really we're all about the free and open exchange of ideas ... We are An Open Book."

The store's mission is manifest in physical open space -- an aspect of moving into a larger location. Kempf confirmed she is "settled on how it looks right now ... we don't want it to have a crowded or cluttered feel."

A red couch against the sea green wall invites readers to sit down, look up and notice -- if they haven't already -- that the ceiling is a blue sky, and the beams connecting to the brown carpeted floor are supposed to be tree trunks with branches painted on top.

The design is part of the store's emphasis on local Minnesota atmosphere and eco-friendly branding -- both of which Kempf pointed to right away at the front of the store. Its look and feel connects seamlessly to Derek and Shari Olson's Harvest Thyme Bistro, which gets its ingredients from nearby farms in Wadena, Otter Tail and Todd counties.

Downstairs, Gracie Meyer owns the Clothes Closet boutique. Kempf put in a good word for her fellow retailer.

"It's not like going through the racks, it's a nice pleasant good blend," she said

"It's a really good partnership ... between the retailers," Kempf added. "It's not like you're entering and exiting. It's like a great big circle."

The rapport between the three tenants was evident at their "official" grand opening on Wednesday, June 30. All-day activities including a treasure hunt and book trivia culminated in a toast and naming ceremony.

114 Jefferson Street S. is now officially called the Bernauer Building after A.H. Bernauer, who managed the Wadena JC Penney for 23 years. District 10 State Senator Dan Skogen presided as the master of ceremonies.