Something for everyone

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March 11, 2014
By: Linda Koutsky
Looking through the front window it’s hard to tell if it’s a natural history museum or bookstore.
Photo by Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

The Book Trader & Curiosity Shop
5344 34th Ave. S., Minneapolis
Open Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

We were on our way to Nokomis Shoes, 4950 34th Ave. S., that great outdoor footwear store in business since 1922, for one more pair of Sorel boots, when we got waylaid at the Book Trader.

I said, “Oh, lets go in there! I’ve always wondered about that place. I’m so sick of winter. Can’t we delay the winter boots another 15 minutes?” We must have been in there an hour. The owner lit and burned two sticks of incense while we were there — how long does that take?

We parked, stumbled past boxes of “free” books, then entered the narrow-aisled, packed-to-the-rafters stores. A red stag from New Zealand blocked our way but had a sign around its neck saying, “duck.” Perc couldn’t resist, “That’s not a duck.” From the counter we heard, “Oh please, like I haven’t heard that a million times before.”

Lynn Whydotski Murray, “Fluffy,” used to do military history book fairs and book shows then opened the store in 1989. She told us, “I try to have unusual stuff because if you wanted normal you’d be at WalMart.”

There’s nothing normal in the store. Shelves are packed from the floor to the ceiling with dolls, masks, ashtrays, souvenirs from National Parks, Shriner’s caps, carved coconut heads, tv trays, vases, lamps, phrenology heads, skull and bones mobile . . .if you don’t see it just ask. In fact a sign even says: “ask to see more chickens.” Fluffy says, “I have almost everything and I know where everything is.”

The store takes up two storefronts. It’s a maze of bookshelves. She carries local authors, a good selection of military books, spy thrillers, crime fiction, paranormal fiction, pretty much everything. Paperbacks are 1/2 the original price unless you bring in books to trade, then they’re 1/4 price.

In the little space above the shelves and doorways and wherever else she can find, Fluffy fits in taxidermy animal mounts. And somehow it’s everywhere. She said a customer once requested it and she keeps buying it. There are alligator heads, frogs, squirrels, turtles, penguins, gazelles, moose, pheasants; animals in lifelike poses, preposterous poses, playing musical instruments; alligator claw backscratchers—she’s got it all. Believe it or not, taxidermy’s back in fashion — I’ve seen it in a least three magazines lately and I wondered where in the world anyone would get it. Well, now we know: The Book Trader and Curiosity Shop.

DONUT BREAK: The best donuts in the world are down the street at Mel-O-Glaze Bakery, 4800 28th Ave. S. (Mon.–Fri., 6 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 7 a.m.–6 p.m.) 

Send your comments or tips to WeekendTourist@mnpubs.com.