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Beloved sci-fi bookstore, established in '70s, reopens after burning down during unrest

MINNEAPOLIS — A beloved book business that burned during the 2020 riots is finally turning a new page. Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore opened with regular hours Tuesday for the first time in more than two years.  

The store near 28th and Chicago in Minneapolis had been there since the ’80s. Rioters burned it down in May 2020. Don Blyly, who started the business in the ’70s, couldn’t salvage anything.

“As soon as I opened the door, this wall of black air hit me in the face, and I couldn’t even breathe until I got the door shut again,” he said.

Steve James, a longtime customer, was very happy to be back in the store Tuesday. When it burned down, he said it felt like someone had passed away.

“It was a fixture where it was,” James said. “It was the store to go to if you wanted science fiction or mystery.”

Blyly almost called it quits, but it was the regulars who convinced him to start over.

Insurance money from the fire, as well as selling books online during the pandemic, went a long way toward allowing Blyly to reopen.

It took him 18 months to find his new location, a building one block from what was the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct headquarters, and across the street from Moon Palace Books.

“Probably 95% of the used books here on the shelves are from my own personal collection,” Blyly said.

He says he lost 200,000 books in the fire, worth more than $1 million. In his new store, Blyly’s still restocking, but he’s up to about half of what there was before.

He believes there’s a human element to browsing a bookstore that keeps people coming back.

“I’ve built up a lot of trust with people that I’m able to recommend books that they’re going to enjoy,” Blyly said.

Uncle Hugo’s is wasting no time. The store’s having a book signing with Mike Kupari, a Minnesota science fiction author, this Saturday.

Source: CBS Minnesota

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